What is the connection between high blood pressure and stroke?
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High Blood Pressure and Strokes: How Are They Connected?

Researchers and doctors have known for years that high blood pressure causes strokes. The connection between high blood pressure and strokes is well documented. But did you know that high blood pressure also increases your risk of having a “mini stroke” — and can even lead to other brain disorders like dementia?

Learn more about the services at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. Call us at 412-232-8840.

What Happens When You Have High Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is known as “the silent killer” because you don’t feel, hear, or see any symptoms. When you have hypertension, the force of the blood pushing against your arteries is too strong. Your heart has to work harder than it should, which can damage your arteries and organs over time and lead to a multitude of health problems.

Over time, high blood pressure can cause strokes and heart disease. Research also indicates that people with hypertension have more problems with their memory, including a greater chance of developing dementia.

The Link Between High Blood Pressure and Strokes

Here’s how high blood pressure causes strokes: According to the American Heart Association, chronic high blood pressure eventually damages blood vessels throughout the body. When that happens, arteries can burst or clog more easily. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted when a blood vessel either bursts or is blocked by a blood clot.

A stroke can be life threatening. When part of the brain is no longer receiving blood and oxygen, brain cells start to die. Strokes can lead to impaired vision, language, balance, and memory. They also can cause partial paralysis or death.

High Blood Pressure and Mini Strokes

A mini stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), occurs when a temporary clot forms. The symptoms are similar to a full-blown stroke: paralysis or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty talking, trouble with balance, blurred vision, confusion, and an altered sense of taste or smell.

High blood pressure can cause both strokes and TIAs; the major difference is how long they last. Mini strokes typically last only a few minutes. But because the symptoms are so similar, you should call 911 if a loved one shows signs of a stroke — even if their symptoms disappear in a few minutes.

Preventing High Blood Pressure and Strokes

The best way to combat high blood pressure is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, get regular physical exams, and check your blood pressure periodically between doctor visits.

Some tips for a healthier lifestyle include:

  • Find a form of exercise you enjoy; it can be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk every day. And recruit an exercise buddy. You’re more likely to make it a habit if it’s something you enjoy or do with a friend.
  • Manage your weight to prevent high blood pressure and strokes, which occur more often in overweight or obese people. Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Practice good sleep habits.
  • Quit smoking; it is the number one risk factor for stroke.

To learn more about hypertension and strokes, call the UPMC Stroke Institute at 412-232-8840. The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is also a great source of information about high blood pressure and stroke.