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What is a stroke? Stroke is a disease that affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is either blocked by a clot (ischemic stroke) or bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). When that happens, part of the brain is no longer getting the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die. Your brain controls your movement and thoughts, so a stroke doesn't only hurt your brain. It also hurts the brain's ability to think and control body functions. Strokes can affect language, memory and vision as well as cause paralysis and other health issues. How does high blood pressure cause a stroke?

HBP damages arteries so they burst or clog more easily. HBP can damage arteries throughout the body. Weakened arteries in the brain put you at much higher risk for stroke. View a detailed animation of HBP . HBP and ischemic stroke About 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes. Again, they are caused by narrowed or clogged blood vessels in the brain that cut off the blood flow to brain cells. Because HBP damages arteries throughout the body, it is critical to keep your blood pressure within acceptable ranges to protect your brain from this often disabling or fatal event. View a detailed animation of ischemic stroke .

HBP and hemorrhagic stroke About 13% of strokes are hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain. When a blood vessel ruptures, it can bleed into the deep tissue in the brain or in the space between the brain and the skull. High blood pressure damages the arteries and can create weak places that rupture easily or thin spots that fill up with blood and balloon out from the artery wall. Chronic HBP or aging blood vessels are the main causes of this type of stroke. View a detailed animation of hemorrhagic stroke .

A stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off. As a result, the brain cells, deprived of the oxygen and glucose needed to survive, die. If not caught early, permanent brain damage can result. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases a person's stroke risk by four to six times. Over time, hypertension leads to atherosclerosis and hardening of the large arteries. This, in turn, can lead to blockage of small blood vessels in the brain. High blood pressure can also lead to weakening of the blood vessels in the brain, causing them to balloon and burst. The risk of stroke is directly related to how high the blood pressure is.

High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from the body. The extra fluid in the blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more. It's a dangerous cycle. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). People with kidney failure must either receive a kidney transplant or have regular blood-cleansing treatments called dialysis. Every year, high blood pressure causes more than 25,000 new cases of kidney failure in the United States. 1

High blood pressure can eventually cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed. Vision may become blurred or otherwise impaired and can result in blindness. Blurred vision can actually be a symptom of a more serious condition that affects the eyes called hypertensive retinopathy. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the retina, which is the area where images focus in the back of you eye. If you have high blood pressure and do not know it, serious damage to one or both eyes can be very serious.

High blood pressure brings on heart failure by causing left ventricular hypertophy, a thickening of the heart muscle that results in less effective muscle relaxation between heart beats. This makes it difficult for the heart to fill with enough blood to supply the bodys organs, especially during exercise, leading your body to hold onto fluids and your heart rate to increase.

A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Aerobic exercises include: walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing, high or low-impact aerobics, swimming, and water aerobics. Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic exercise, including:

Household chores, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves or scrubbing the floor Active sports, such as basketball or tennis Climbing stairs Walking Jogging Bicycling Swimming You can break up your workout into three 10-minute sessions of aerobic exercise and get the same benefit as one 30-minute session. Weight training and high blood pressure

Weight training can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. This increase can be dramatic - depending on how much weight you lift. But, weightlifting can also have long-term benefits to blood pressure that outweigh the risk of a temporary spike for most people. If you have high blood pressure and want to include weight training in your fitness program, remember:

Learn and use proper form when lifting to reduce the risk of injury. Don't hold your breath. Holding your breath during exertion can cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure. Instead, breathe easily and continuously during each lift. Lift lighter weights more times. Heavier weights require more strain, which can cause a greater increase in blood pressure. You can challenge your muscles with lighter weights by increasing the number of repetitions you do. Listen to your body. Stop your activity right away if you become severely out of breath or dizzy or if you experience chest pain or pressure.

Sodium's Effect on Water

A normal amount of circulating water within the body helps to maintain normal blood pressure in the blood vessels, as well as regulate overall body temperature and other functions. However, when too much sodium is ingested it can cause the body to retain more water than necessary. This hoarding of excess water by the body, and its continued movement through the body causes blood pressure to increase inside blood vessel walls, according to the Colorado State University.

A drink is 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof distilled spirits. Keep in mind that alcohol contains calories and may contribute to unwanted weight gain a risk factor for high blood pressure. Also, alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness and increase the side effects of some blood pressure medications. The link between alcohol and hypertension was established in a 1979 study of alcoholics (see Saunders, Beevers & Paton study under "References"). Close to 50% of the alcoholics had high blood pressure. The exact cause of why the alcohol causes the blood pressure to rise is unknown, but it is clear that when alcohol enters and accumulates in the blood stream, it interferes with the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the heart through the aorta and smaller veins. Whenever the heart has to pump harder to supply nutrient-rich blood to the other organs of the body, it raises the drinker's blood pressure. Symptoms of hypertension will go away when the person stops his bad drinking habits. Read more: Alcohol Causes Hypertension |