Stroke is a serious problem facing both American men and women. Not only can suffering a stroke result in severe disability, it is also among the leading causes of death. Understanding the potential risk factors for stroke and working to mitigate them is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. While problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking can all contribute to stroke risk, high blood pressure is among the most impactful issues patients can face.
Understanding High Blood Pressure
When blood passes through the arteries, it exerts a certain amount of force against the walls. Normal ranges of blood pressure are safe and cause no damage to the arteries. However, just as overfilling a tire or a garden hose can weaken them and cause damage, so too can increased blood pressure through arteries over an extended period of time. Eventually, as they sustain more and more damage, the arteries can narrow to a point that blood can no longer pass through properly. As a result, many health problems, including stroke, can result.
How High Blood Pressure Causes a Stroke
The majority of strokes are a specific type known as ischemic. In an ischemic stroke, blood flow to the brain is interrupted when a clot blocks a blood vessel. These clots are generally the result of atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque. High blood pressure is among the most common causes of atherosclerosis.
Preventing High Blood Pressure and Stroke
Protecting yourself from a stroke starts by protecting yourself from high blood pressure. Unsurprisingly, the healthy steps you take to maintain healthy blood pressure can also help address a large number of similar health concerns such as high cholesterol and diabetes. Regardless of age or current state of health, the following are suggestions that nearly anyone can implement to begin improving health right away:
- Reduce salt intake and eat a healthy diet of lean proteins and fresh vegetables
- Engage in regular physical activity, multiple times a week for at least 30 minutes
- Do not smoke
- Take any medication as prescribed
In addition to these steps, it is important to keep a close eye on heart health through the guidance of a physician, particularly if you already have risk factors. To get started with a skilled cardiologist, contact Cardiovascular Institute of the South, and request an appointment at any of our many locations.