When people find out they have high blood pressure, they often worry about having a heart attack. Many don’t realize they could also develop dementia. Here are three ways in which this can happen:
- High blood pressure puts a lot of pressure on the walls of the arteries, which carry blood to the brain. This can damage the blood vessels, causing arteriosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. When the arteries are narrow, they can’t carry as much blood to the brain as it needs. Less oxygen and nutrients can cause brain cells to begin to die.
- High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and cause them to begin bleeding in small amounts called “microbleeds”. Over time microbleeds can accumulate, causing brain damage.
- High blood pressure can also lead to a stroke, which happens when a blood vessel to the brain gets blocked. A stroke can cut off blood flow to the brain
When people get dementia, they begin to lose their ability to think, to reason and to remember. In many ways, they begin to lose themselves.
When patients don’t take their blood pressure medication and don’t change unhealthy lifestyles, it’s true that they run the risk of having a heart attack. However, they also run the risk of living without their own memories, their own personality and their ability to continue living independently.
If your healthcare provider prescribes medication and lifestyle changes to control your blood pressure, it’s important to follow directions in order to protect the health of your heart AND your brain.