Cognitive Decline Due to High Blood Pressure: Causes & Treatments

psychological effects of high blood pressure

Cognitive Decline Due to High Blood Pressure: Causes & Treatments

Psychological effects of high blood pressure can increase the propensity to develop anxiety, depression, or brain stroke. Understanding the risk factors on time and making the necessary lifestyle changes can prevent these effects.

Did you ever wonder why your blood pressure is measured before any diagnosis or at any clinical visit?

Be it a cardiologist, psychiatrist, dentist, or a general physician, every medical professional starts seeing their patients by taking their blood pressure.

There is a viable reason behind it. High blood pressure is known to be a ‘silent killer’.

High blood pressure (hypertension) classifies as a reason behind cardiovascular disease and it tends to damage the tiny blood vessels and arteries.

Since all body parts rely on blood circulation, high blood pressure not only harms the blood vessels and heart but also there are Psychological Effects of High Blood Pressure along with harm on kidney and eyes.


Causes and Psychological Effects of High Blood Pressure

Hypertension has the tag ‘silent killer’ for a reason. Most people with high blood pressure harbor no symptoms of the condition.

A few people may have Symptoms of High Blood Pressure which include headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds. However, these symptoms may also develop into a life-threatening stage.

It is essential to know What Causes High Blood Pressure for hypertension harms mental health too.

The reasons for hypertension are as follows:

  1. Primary hypertension tends to develop gradually over the years and it has no identifiable cause to date.
  2. Secondary hypertension has various causes which include:
  • Congenital blood vessel disorder
  • Kidney disorders
  • Thyroid gland problems
  • Adrenal Gland tumors
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Smoking
  • Family history of blood pressure issues
  • Drug addiction
  • Medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, and some other prescription drugs.

The Common Effects of High Blood Pressure include mental instability, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disorders, and harmful effects on the brain and eyes.


The Interplay between High Blood Pressure and Mental Health

Every vital organ of the body requires proper blood circulation for proper functioning. 

What’s healthy for your heart is unconditionally healthy for your brain as well. What’s bad for your heart is worse for your brain!

But high blood pressure disrupts proper and nourishing blood supply to the brain which can result in the following conditions:

#1. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

High blood pressure causes hardened arteries and blood clotting.

Further, it results in a brief and temporary disruption of blood supply to the brain owing to the condition called TIA. TIA happens to be a mini-stroke warning you of bigger complications ahead.

#2. Anxiety and Depression 

Anxiety can lead to behaviors like smoking, overeating, obesity, and drug abuse which leads to high blood pressure. Depression also quadruples the vulnerability to hypertension.

But having high blood pressure can lead you to more frustration. Further, it would exacerbate anxiety and depressive feelings.

This two-way relationship between High Blood Pressure and Mental Health is frightening!

#3. Stroke

One of the deadliest consequences of hypertension is your higher susceptibility to brain stroke.

Weakened or damaged blood vessels that are likely to develop out of hypertension is one of the most dreadful Psychological Effects of High Blood Pressure. 

Further, it results in blockage of supply that can lead to a stroke. A stroke can cause weakness, paralysis, and other problems, such as loss of bladder and bowel control and problems with swallowing.

Moreover, it can also influence language and speech abilities, memory, and mental health. 

As per a Harvard study, High Blood Pressure and Mental Health are very much inter-related. The study states hypertension increases the risk of stroke by 220% while reducing systolic blood pressure by 10 mm Hg can lower the risk of brain stroke by 44%.

#4. Dementia

When the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients due to hypertension, cognitive impairment develops. Studies show a type of scar tissue builds up in the brain because of high blood pressure.

Over time, it causes dementia – the decline in mental abilities severe enough to intervene in your ability to do daily tasks.

High blood pressure increases the risk of more severe conditions, such as vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This aptly shows High Blood Pressure Affects Mental Health to a disastrous extent. 

Many research and studies have been done to examine and establish the relationship between high blood pressure and psychological stress.


High Blood Pressure Affects Thinking Skills: Research

Following are some of the scientific evidence indicating the clear psychological effects of high blood pressure.

Gottesman’s Research

A study by Rebecca Gottesman, M.D. Ph.D., Director of Research at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center has unveiled a key relation between hypertension and thinking skills and studies the Psychological Effects of High Blood Pressure

#1. The Base of the Study

The study analyzes the information collected from more than 15000 adults for the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, a long-term project started in the late 1980s that has followed volunteers for over two decades. 

#2. The Pattern of the Study

The scientists compared the participants’ results of three thinking skill tests with their blood pressure measurements.

The three thinking skills tested are as follows:

  1. Speed and planning skills test- To test how well you react and plan
  2. Mental processing speed test- To analyze how well you can do a maths sum (such as figuring out a restaurant tip) or understand complicated instructions (such as tricky driving instructions)
  3. Executive function test- To assess how well you can plan, organize, remember details, and manage your time.

#3. Key Findings

  • People with hypertension had a greater decline in key thinking skills later in life than those with normal blood pressure figures.
  • People with high blood pressure in mid-life possessed a 6.5 percent steeper decline by the time they reached 70s, 80s, and 90s.
  • Rebecca Gottesman says, “This slight difference could be enough to push someone over the threshold to a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or dementia.”
  • Controlling Blood Pressure Helps. People who had hypertension in their mid-life and controlled it with medications had better scores in the test.

University of Maryland’s Research

M.F. Elias, Robbins, Elias, and Streeten (1998) found controlling statistically for systolic blood pressure, assessed over time, lowers the correlation between age and several subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale by about 50%.

The studies show the impact of hypertension is not limited to cognitive impairment, mental issues, and other medical disorders. Moreover, it also impacts emotional stability. 

Now, the most probable question on your mind must be, “Can High Blood Pressure Cause Mood Swings?” The answer is yes.

Let us see how hypertension impacts emotional behavior.


Emotional Implications of High Blood Pressure

A study by Clemson University states that hypertension can result in emotional dampening.

Researchers of the same reported that the hypertension patients were less reactive to photographs and text passages that were aimed to trigger emotions including fear, anger, and happiness.

People with emotional dampening may find it hard to perceive emotions. Further, studies also establish the fact that high blood pressure results in reduced ability to sense negative feelings like pain, anger, etc.

The Emotional Effects of High Blood Pressure have been studied thoroughly by many institutions and scientists.

Moreover, the relationship between High Blood Pressure and Emotions has been emphasized:

  • MC Cubbin and his colleagues took the blood pressure and emotional responses of 106 African- Americans of low socioeconomic status in Baltimore. MC Cubbin said, “We believe that there is a link between control of blood pressure and the central nervous system’s assessment of emotional stimuli like threats in the environment.”
  • Dr. Mustafa al’Absi of the University of Minnesota Medical School believes people with high blood pressure might not detect signals like pain from a heart attack. 

They are also less likely to respond to signals from people around them who may express negative or positive emotions.

  • Raised blood pressure might exacerbate anxiety and depressive feelings in you or skyrocket your depression. This can lead to more frustration which can result in mood swings and extreme feelings.

In fact, emotional instability is one of the most common Psychological Effects of High Blood Pressure. 

Moreover, there are many risk factors associated with high blood pressure. Understanding them would give you better insight.


Understanding the Risk Factors

High blood pressure has many risk factors including:

#1. Age

The risk of higher blood pressure is directly proportional to age. Hypertension is common in men after the age of 64 while women tend to develop high blood pressure at an age of 65.

#2. Family History of Hypertension and Race

Hypertension is common among the African race. Moreover, it is common with families.

#3. Obesity

The more you weigh, the more nutrients and blood your tissues need. Blood pressure increases with the volume of blood supply.

#4. Physical Inactiveness

Physical inactiveness builds up higher heart rates. Further, it increases the pump work by the heart which ultimately increases the blood pressure.

#5. Tobacco Consumption

Smoking or chewing tobacco temporarily increases pressure. However, the chemicals can damage the inner lining of arteries. Thereby, it increases the risk of heart diseases.

#6. Diet with Excessive Sodium Or Insufficient Potassium

Excessive sodium in the diet can cause fluid retention while insufficient potassium increases the sodium level. Therefore, these increase blood pressure. 

#7. Addiction to Alcohol

Heavy drinking damages the heart. So, you might want to abstain from overindulging to keep your heart in its best shape.

#8. Stress

Increased stress level results in a temporary rise in blood pressure. It often results in coping behavior, such as smoking and drinking that makes you more vulnerable to high blood pressure.

#9. Certain Chronic Conditions

Certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, kidney disorders, diabetes, and sleep apnea may increase the risk of high blood pressure.

However, there’s hope! Some lifestyle changes can eliminate the risk of hypertension.


Steps to Prevent the Psychological Effects of High Blood Pressure

There are some changes you can incorporate in your lifestyle to lower the risk and escape high blood pressure conditions:

#1. Exercise and Physical Activeness

Regular exercise will make your heart and muscle stronger. A healthy heart ensures proper circulation of blood and the proper functioning of each vital organ. So, it’s the first step to lower the risk or get rid of high blood pressure. 

One should aim for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, such as walking or jogging. Or you can inculcate 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week like cycling, swimming, etc.

#2. Healthy and Balanced Diet

The food you consume has a major impact on your blood pressure. These types of diets can help you maintain normal blood pressure:

  • The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) – This focuses on the reduction of salt in the diet.
  • The Mediterranean diet- This diet plan includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil—and only modest amounts of meat and cheese.
  • Zero or little Alcohol consumption.  
  • Increased Potassium intake by consuming bananas, spinach, oranges, and broccoli and reduced sodium content in the diet.
  • Prefer meals at home over canned and processed foods.

#3. Maintain Body Mass Index

The weight of the body should not exceed the normal range. More weight requires more nutrients and a richer blood supply. Therefore, body weight has a pivotal role to play in maintaining a normal blood pressure range. 

#4. Stress Management

Stress leads to anxiety and depression which may result in a temporary increase in blood pressure. One should adopt a relaxation technique, get enough sleep in a day to avoid stress. Moreover, we should talk and connect to trusted friends to relax and avoid depressive thoughts.

A stitch in time saves nine!

One should incorporate these habits and lifestyle changes to lower the risk of high blood pressure. These have a huge impact to keep your heart and brain in a healthy condition.

Why rush for doctors and clinical help when the cure is in your own hands?



It is a well-stated fact that high blood pressure is common in adults. Unawareness, non-medication, and skipped medications make the conditions worse.

One having hypertension must consider medication as soon as possible. People who took regular medications showed much improved results and most of them even got rid of their hypertension.

We hope this blog helped you. Stay tuned for further updates. 

Post your queries in the comment section box!



  1. Hidden Brain Risk: Midlife High Blood Pressure
  2. Cardiovascular Emotional Dampening: The Relationship between Blood Pressure and Recognition of Emotion: McCubbin, J. A., Merritt, M. M., Sollers, J. J., 3rd, Evans, M. K., Zonderman, A. B., Lane, R. D., & Thayer, J. F., October 2011


  1. Blood Pressure and Your Brain


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Marcus Elburn

Dr. Marcus Elburn is an MSc graduate in Therapeutics, Drug Development, and Human Toxicology. Apart from internal medicine and geriatrics, his areas of research interests include integrative medicine, cardiometabolic risk management, endocrinology and metabolism, and pharmacology of sexual function and dysfunction. Read More... About Me

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