No. of Recommendations: 7

New York Times, November 12, 2012
High Blood Pressure Tied to Brain Changes

High blood pressure may cause harmful brain changes in people as young as 40, a study suggests.

In the report, published online Nov. 2 in Lancet Neurology, researchers measured blood pressure in 579 men and women whose average age was 39, then examined their brains with magnetic resonance imaging. After adjusting for smoking, hypertension treatment and total cranial volume, they found that higher systolic blood pressure — the most common form of hypertension — was associated with decreases in gray matter volume and significant injury to white matter. Moreover, there was a dose-response relationship: The higher the blood pressure, the greater the visible changes. [end quote]

This study had a reasonably large (though not gigantic) data set considering that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is expensive. The amazing thing is that the brain damage caused by high blood pressure is visible in structural damage to the brain even when people are young and don’t have symptoms.

My systolic blood pressure can spike as high as 145 when I feel stressed (for example, if I’m late to an appointment). However, by doing yoga breathing and relaxation, I can bring it down to 109 within a couple of minutes. I’m truly amazed that mood makes such an immediate difference in blood pressure, but I have actually had it measured in a doctor’s office so I know it’s true.

Now that I know that high blood pressure can actually cause physical damage to brain cells, I will make a particular effort to stay calm and do yoga relaxation. If I had known this when I was younger (when I was very stressed at work), I would have made a special effort to learn to relax.

The medical community recommends medication to treat high blood pressure. However, reducing sodium chloride salt in the diet and practicing meditation and relaxation has worked for me. It is definitely worth learning yoga meditation and relaxation techniques.

This may actually be on-topic for the LBYM Board because meditation is free while blood pressure meds are expensive.

Wendy {cross-posted to METAR)
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