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Can High BP Cause Brain Damage? Everything You Need to Know

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 22 July 2022, Updated on - 06 September 2022

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High blood pressure has become one of the most commonly diagnosed chronic conditions in India. Moreover, statistics reveal high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects approximately one-third of urban and one-quarter of rural Indians, respectively. However, many of us believe hypertension is relatively harmless as it doesn’t trigger severe complications immediately. While it is true that high blood pressure in itself isn’t life-threatening, it can increase the risk of potentially fatal medical conditions such as a stroke. The article explores how high blood pressure can increase your risk of stroke and the measures you can adopt to protect yourself. 

Link Between High Blood Pressure And Stroke

A stroke, also known as a brain attack, is an acute medical condition that occurs when a clot blocks the supply of blood to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or bursts. When a stroke happens, the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain cells and tissues declines significantly. As a result, they get damaged and begin to die within minutes.

Since the brain controls your thoughts and movements, a stroke disrupts your ability to comprehend, move, and function. Without prompt treatment, a stroke can cause permanent damage to your brain, paralysis, or even death. Neurologists say that high blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for stroke. 

It has been found that high blood pressure can raise the risk of all three types of strokes:

1. Ischaemic Stroke

Over time, hypertension impairs arteries by making them stiff and narrow. The damage caused by elevated blood pressure often leads to atherosclerosis, i.e., the build-up of fatty deposits in the inner lining of the arteries. Occasionally, these fatty deposits break off to form a clot, which may travel to the brain and cause an ischaemic stroke. 

2. Haemorrhagic Stroke

The damage to arteries caused by high blood pressure can lead to bleeding inside the brain. The bleeding occurs when an artery in the brain ruptures or starts leaking blood. The leaked blood can increase the pressure inside the skull, resulting in temporary or permanent damage to the brain cells and life-threatening complications.  

3. Transient Ischemic Stroke

A TIA (transient ischemic attack) occurs when a temporary clot in a blood vessel briefly blocks the supply of blood to the brain. Just like hemorrhagic strokes, the clots responsible for TIA are often a result of arterial damage caused by high blood pressure. 

Factors That Increase Risk of Hypertension And Stroke

Certain lifestyle habits and other factors that make you more susceptible to stroke are: 

  • Smoking:  Tobacco damages the walls of the blood vessels and promotes the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. The plaque buildup can impede the flow of blood to the brain and lead to stroke. 
  • Obesity: An obese individual needs more blood to transport oxygen and nutrients to their organs and tissues. To accomplish this, the heart must pump harder to circulate more blood through the blood vessels. Over time, this exerts more pressure on the arteries and eventually damages them. 
  • Stress: Stressful situations lead to a brief surge in the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol that increase blood pressure temporarily. However, chronic stress lead to a permanent surge in stress hormone levels, which can damage your arteries and increase the risk of hypertension and stroke. 
  • Lack of physical activity: Physical inactivity has been linked to a high risk for hypertension. People who lead sedentary lifestyles usually have higher pulse rates, which means their heart has to work to pump blood through their arteries. A sedentary lifestyle can also make you prone to weight gain and obesity, which is another major risk factor for hypertension and stroke.
  • Consumption of too much salt: High intake of salt makes it difficult for the kidneys to expel fluid from the body. It can result in fluid retention in the body, which may contribute to an increase in blood pressure. 

smoking

High intake of alcohol, old age, family history of hypertension, and certain chronic conditions such as diabetes, and kidney disease are also linked to a higher risk of hypertension. 

Tips To Prevent Stroke

While you cannot completely eliminate the likelihood of stroke, you can reduce the risk by getting your blood pressure under control. Adopting the following preventive measures can help: 

  • Lose excess weight by diet modification and exercise
  • Manage stress by practising yoga and meditation
  • Exercise for at least 30 mins every day 
  • Limit consumption of salt by avoiding processed foods
  • Quit tobacco use (if you do)
  • Reduce intake of alcoholic beverages

no salt

The aforementioned measures will not only reduce the likelihood of stroke but also help you ward off other potential risks to your health. 

In most cases, high blood pressure can be brought under control through changes to diet and lifestyle. If such changes fail to lower your blood pressure, consult a qualified physician for medicinal treatment. 

Consult An Apollo Expert

 

Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt.

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