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Memory Impairment May be Due to High Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is a medical condition which is marked by elevated blood pressure levels. High blood pressure may be due to elevated pressure inside the arteries, the force of which is governed by the pumping of the heart. Blood pressure is the result of this force pushing up against the walls of the blood vessels. The heart pumps harder because of this high pressure inside the blood vessels.

Increased blood pressure can damage other organs of the body and can bring about numerous other illnesses such as renal failure (kidney failure), aneurysm, heart failure, stroke, or heart attack. There are some studies which actually say that high blood pressure, especially during middle age can increase the risk for cognitive decline. Normal blood pressure is 120/80, where 120 represents the systolic measurement (peak pressure in the arteries) and 80 represents the diastolic measurement (minimum pressure in the arteries). Prehypertension occurs when the blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg. Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure is 140/90 or above.
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Hypertension is classified as either primary or secondary. Primary hypertension is also known as essential hypertension and has no known cause. Majority of hypertension cases are classified as essential hypertension. Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is hypertension secondary to other illnesses such as kidney problems, intake of birth control pills and cancers.

The causes of hypertension are not exactly known, however there are some factors which have been associated with this condition; these factors include smoking, obesity, being overweight, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity, high levels of salt intake, race (being African-American), insufficient calcium, potassium, and magnesium consumption, Vitamin D deficiency, high levels of alcohol consumption, stress, aging, medicines such as birth control pills, genetics and a family history of hypertension, chronic kidney disease and adrenal and thyroid problems or tumors.  Hypertension can bring about various signs and symptoms such as severe headaches, fatigue or confusion, dizziness, nausea, problems with vision, chest pains, breathing problems, irregular heartbeat and blood in the urine.

Hypertension is often diagnosed by a health professional upon measurement of blood pressure with a device called a sphygmomanometer. A person is considered to have hypertension if the pressure is greater than 140/90 mm Hg. Hypertension needs to be treated because it can lead to long-term complications. These long-term complications include kidney disease, kidney failure, end-stage renal disease, heart disease, hardened arteries, cardiovascular disease, angina, heart attack, left ventricular hypertrophy, heart failure, left-side heart failure, stroke, cerebrovascular disease, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, eye complications, retinal damage, impaired vision and death.

High Blood Pressure and Memory Impairment

A recent study has shown that high blood pressure in middle age plays a critical role in whether blood pressure in old age may affect memory and thinking. The results of this study are published in the journal Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. In this study, 4,057 older participants free of dementia had their blood pressure measured in middle-age, (average age of 50). In late life (an average age of 76) their blood pressure was remeasured and participants underwent MRIs that looked at structure and damage to the small vessels in the brain. They also took tests that measured their memory and thinking ability. The researchers found out that cognitive function and memory during old age was dependent on blood pressure during middle age. Higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels were associated with increased risk of brain lesions and tiny brain bleeds. In people with a history of high blood pressure in middle age, lower diastolic blood pressure in older age was associated with smaller total brain and gray matter volumes.

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