Hypertension, the Brain, and Cognitive Performance
High blood pressure damages the brain by adversely affecting the following: 1
- brain fibers that affect non-verbal functions;
- nerve fibers that affect executive functioning and emotional regulation; and,
- limbic system fibers which are involved in attention tasks.
Researchers also found those with high blood pressure performed significantly worse on two different assessments of cognitive function and memory. Hypertension reduces cognitive speed, mental flexibility, and memory. Mental flexibility is defined as the human ability to adapt the cognitive processing strategies to face new and unexpected conditions in the environment. It also refers to the brain’s ability to transition from thinking about one concept to another concept. Individuals who have a difficult time adapting to change, whether it be behavioral, psychological, environmental, or technological, seem stuck in their ways.2
But that is not all. Hypertension can negatively impact communications and relationships. How? People with higher blood pressure have reduced ability to recognize angry, fearful, sad and happy faces, and text passages that may cause them to respond inappropriately to anger or various emotions in others.3
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- American Heart Association. “New imaging technique detects early brain damage from hypertension.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150917134626.htm.
- van den Berg E. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia and obesity: A systematic comparison of their impact on cognition. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 May; 1792(5):470-81.
- McCubbin JA. Cardiovascular-Emotional Dampening: The Relationship Between Blood Pressure and Recognition of Emotion. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2011; DOI: 1097/PSY.0b013e318235ed55.