High blood pressure leads to stroke

  • Published
  • By Shari Lopatin
  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance
One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

And, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association. The relationship between the two is unmistakable. The American Stroke Association even states on its Web site, "Managing high blood pressure is the most important thing you can do to lessen your risk for stroke."

What is blood pressure?

As the heart pumps out blood, the blood pushes against the walls of the body's arteries. The force of this push is "blood pressure." However, if this pressure rises too much--and stays high--it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of the body, according to NHLBI. It can also lead to a stroke.

Blood pressure is read using two numbers, delivered in a fraction-like form. According to NHLBI, a normal blood pressure reading in a healthy adult is 120/80 or less. An adult reaches Stage 1 high blood pressure when the top number reads 140 to 159 or the bottom number reads 90 to 99.

What causes high blood pressure?

Online literature from NHLBI says that blood pressure tends to rise with age. However, other causes may include chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnea or certain asthma and cold-relief medications. Additionally, some women who take birth control pills, become pregnant or take hormone replacement therapy could experience elevated blood pressure.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, according to NHLBI. Occasionally, it may cause headaches. Many people have high blood pressure for years and don't know it.

The best way to prevent high blood pressure from getting out of control is to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, manage stress effectively, limit the amount of salt and alcohol consumption and avoid cigarette smoke.

The stroke correlation:

According to the American Stroke Association, a stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain is either blocked by a blood clot or completely bursts. This prevents oxygen from reaching the brain. Therefore, the part of the brain affected by the stroke starts to die. Strokes can affect one's ability to control movement, language, vision and memory, among other bodily functions.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke because it damages arteries, says online literature from the American Stroke Association. When arteries are damaged, they clog or burst more easily.

For more healthy living tips, including suggestions on controlling blood pressure and stroke awareness, visit www.triwest.com/healthyliving.