Comprehensive health

Hypertension affects brain connections

Hypertension affects one billion people in the world and can cause myocardial infarction and stroke. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that annually it causes more than nine million deaths. It is important to know that hypertension can also cause small infarcts in the brain that often go unnoticed, as they have no symptoms. However, these small infarcts damage connections between areas of the brain, and if they accumulate and are very numerous, they end up impeding the correct functioning of the brain. Brain connections are similar to roads. If one road is damaged it is easy to find an alternative road for traffic. However, if many roads are damaged, the traffic eventually becomes paralyzed. The same thing happens in the brain and that is why it is essential to prevent the possible infarcts that hypertension can cause. In addition, most people with hypertension do not show any symptoms. For this reason, controlling it with regular visits to your family doctor is crucial. But you have to go a step further and follow some healthy lifestyle habits.

What do the guides say?

Until now, medical practice guidelines have established that a pressure below 140 mmHg is healthy. The results of the SPRINT study, conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the United States, which analyzed 9,361 hypertensive patients with high cardiovascular risk for more than three years, have led to a change in this threshold figure. And that is because there were 26% fewer deaths and 38% fewer cases of heart failure among the participants who maintained their pressure below 120 mmHg, compared to those who maintained it at 140 mmHg. Although in the new European Guidelines of Hypertension (HTA) of the Spanish Society of Hypertension-Spanish League for the Fight against Arterial Hypertension (SEH-LELHA) the cutoff point remains 140/90mmHg, in the new AHA guidelines, a goal of less than 130/80 is recommended for all. That stricter control of blood pressure proposed by the AHA also means better cognitive function and a healthier brain.

What habits should be followed?

What all guides agree on is the need to follow healthy lifestyles. For example, following a balanced diet (such as the Mediterranean diet), controlling alcohol consumption, not smoking, controlling salt intake, exercising regularly, and evaluating sleep (to rule out or treat alterations such as obstructive sleep apnea) can help to reduce your blood pressure.