Health & Safety

May 11, 2012

How does high blood pressure cause stroke?

by Shari Lopatin
TriWest Healthcare Alliance

Did you know that one in every three U.S. adults has suffered from high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke? And, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Those facts came straight from the American Stroke Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The relationship between stroke and high blood pressure has been well-documented. The American Stroke Association states, “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 blood through the body, it also pushes blood against 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.


What causes high blood pressure?

Blood pressure tends to rise with age. However, other causes may include obesity, chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnea or certain asthma and cold-relief medications.

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 even know it.

The best ways to prevent high blood pressure from escalating are to:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • exercise regularly
  • manage stress effectively
  • limit the amount of salt and alcohol consumption
  • avoid cigarette smoke
  • check your blood pressure regularly


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, causing the affected part to die.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke because it damages arteries. And when arteries are damaged, they clog or burst more easily.

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