This blood pressure number can predict your stroke risk

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In a recent study, scientists at the University of Miami embarked on an adventure to unravel a mystery:

How does our blood pressure affect our brain, especially when it comes to scary things like losing our memory, having strokes, or falling down unexpectedly?

What they discovered could change how we think about keeping our brains healthy as we get older.

Blood pressure is like the force of water running through a hose. It’s measured in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is like the pressure when the water is being pushed out strongly as the heart beats.

The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when the heart is taking a rest between beats. Doctors usually get worried if the second number is 80 or more because it means the pressure might be too high.

The researchers were particularly interested in something called white matter lesions. Imagine these lesions like little scars in the brain that show up when things aren’t quite right.

They can mess with how the brain talks to itself, making it harder for messages to get where they need to go. This can lead to trouble with thinking clearly, moving around, and even staying upright.

In their quest, the scientists looked at more than 1,200 people who were 50 years old or more.

They found that the folks with a lower second number in their blood pressure reading (meaning their hearts were resting more peacefully between beats) had fewer of these troublesome scars in their brains.

This was a bit of a plot twist because most people thought only the first number (the systolic pressure) was the villain when it came to brain health.

The study showed that not all parts of the brain were affected equally. People with a lower diastolic blood pressure (below 80) had fewer scars in certain areas of the brain compared to those with higher diastolic pressure (above 90).

Why does this matter, you ask? Well, the brain is like a super-complex network of highways, with messages zooming around all the time. White matter is the part of the brain that’s full of these message-carrying pathways.

When there are scars, it’s like having potholes on the highway, slowing everything down and sometimes causing accidents. If too many messages get jammed, it can lead to serious problems like falling, having a stroke, or not being able to think as clearly.

As people get older, these brain scars become more common. By the time someone hits 60, up to 20% of people will have them, and the number only goes up from there.

But here’s the hopeful part: this study suggests that by keeping an eye on our diastolic blood pressure and keeping it in a healthy range, we might be able to protect our brains from these scars.

The researchers, led by Michelle R. Caunca, have shown us that taking care of our blood pressure is not just about avoiding heart problems; it’s also about keeping our brains sharp and our bodies steady.

So, checking our blood pressure regularly and chatting with doctors about how to keep it in a happy range could be one of the keys to a long, healthy life, where our brains work well, and we’re less likely to tumble or forget our grandkids’ names.

If you care about stroke, please read studies that diets high in flavonoids could help reduce stroke risk, and MIND diet could slow down cognitive decline after stroke.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and tea and coffee may help lower your risk of stroke, dementia.

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