Stroke and blood pressure

How the two are connected and what to know

A stroke might happen in the blink of an eye — changing a person’s life dramatically in an instant. High blood pressure, on the other hand, may come on so silently and slowly that you don’t even know you have it.

These strikingly different conditions share a close and dangerous connection: High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke. In fact, more than three out of four strokes occur in people who have high blood pressure. And stroke, in turn, is a leading cause of long-term disability.1

You don’t have to sit silently by. Read on to learn how to help protect your brain and life.

Know your numbers

High blood pressure typically has no symptoms. So to know if yours is in a healthy range, it’s important to have it checked regularly. Ask your primary care physician (PCP) how often to do this.

Your PCP may also talk with you about your personal risk of stroke. Other factors besides high blood pressure may increase it — including smoking, diabetes or a history of stroke in your family.

5 ways to bring it down

If you have high blood pressure, these steps may help lower it — and reduce your risk for a stroke, a heart attack or other serious conditions.2

  1. Step up to the plate. Build your meals around fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins. At the same time, limit your sodium, saturated fat and sugar. See DASH Diet to Lower Blood Pressure for more details.
  2. Move more. Find ways to be active regularly. Maybe that’s riding a bike, playing tennis or taking walks with friends.3
  3. Watch your weight. To shed extra pounds, you don’t need a drastic diet. Instead, try this winning combo: healthier foods and portion control plus regular exercise.
  4. Limit alcohol. Heavy drinking is linked with high blood pressure. If you drink, stick with moderation. That means up to 1 drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks a day for men.4 Some people should drink less or not use alcohol at all.
  5. Mind your medicines. If your doctor prescribes blood pressure pills, it's important to take them as directed.

Here are some good ways to remember your medicine:

  • Take it at the same time every day.
  • Use a weekly pillbox so you can see if you’ve taken it.
  • Set a reminder on your smartphone.

Footnotes

  1. American Heart Association/American Stroke Association
  2. American Heart Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  3. For safety’s sake, talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.
  4. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020

Disclaimers

Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered. Your workplace may also provide a confidential employee assistance program that can put you in touch with professional help.