Nurturing Heart and Mind: Managing Cardiovascular Risk for a Sharper Future
By Susan Pearsall
Nearly half (48.1%) of American adults have high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension). However, many are unaware of the problem, which often causes no symptoms. This situation is very dangerous.
HBP damages the heart and blood vessels and causes strokes. It’s a leading cause of kidney failure. Hypertension is even a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD). The combination of HBP and sleep apnea is particularly tough on the brain. Interrupted sleep increases blood pressure and is also a risk factor for ADRD.
As we age, the health of our hearts and minds can’t be taken for granted. Vascular health is critical for brain health. Your brain is a resource hog and requires a constant supply of oxygenated blood.
Get Some Data
If you don’t know your typical blood pressure, get a blood-pressure reading at your doctor’s office or at your local pharmacy. Once you understand your risk, take urgent action to prevent damage to your cardiovascular and cognitive health.
Medication can be a good first step to reduce your blood pressure. However, drugs are not the only solution. Improving your diet, managing stress, and exercising regularly are essential steps for lowering blood pressure.
Healthy Choices for a Healthy Brain
Better nutrition is crucial for controlling blood pressure. Doctors recommend a Mediterranean-style diet that consists mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. The MIND Diet is a good one to try. Start reading food labels, and avoid sodium, fats, and junk food. A healthy diet benefits your heart and your brain.
Other lifestyle habits that can prevent hypertension, such as regular exercise, are also effective for protecting brain health as you age. The American Heart Association provides many free resources to help you address high blood pressure. Consult with your physician before engaging in vigorous physical activity, and track your progress during follow-up visits.
The dangers of HBP are real, but so are your options for effective prevention. Hypertension can lead to serious health issues, but if you take proactive steps to keep your blood pressure in check, you can protect your heart, your brain health, and your overall well-being.