It’s no secret that hypertension is bad for your health. But did you know it’s also bad for your looks?

There are so many harmful effects caused by heart risk or high blood pressure that it’s hard to decide where to begin. From vision loss and erectile dysfunction, to strokes and heart attacks, the list goes on.But why do so few of the 1 in every 3 American adults with high blood pressure or risk of heart disease. One reason is high blood pressure usually has no heart-related early warning signs. Any serious consequences are in the seemingly distant future. When you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s, it’s hard to take action about something that is remote from day-to-day life.But what if the consequences of high blood pressure were more immediate and impacted something high value to most men and women? What if  high blood pressure made you look older than you really are?

Elevated blood pressure and premature aging

It turns out the early stages of hypertension (those you experience in your 20s, 30s and 40s) and high blood pressure, have a very real impact on how old you look. Even though you aren’t getting heart attack-like symptoms, you are aging faster than you should, and those around you can tell.

Elevated blood pressure —> sagging skin

A recent study found a direct link between lower/higher blood pressure and the speed at which skin ages. Specifically saggy or baggy face skin was the feature most impacted by higher blood pressure. In females this resulted in a less youthful overall appearance. In males this translated to a less youthful face.

High blood pressure —> wrinkles

Studies have shown a strong correlation between high blood pressure and skin wrinkling. Dry skin/rapid wrinkling may be the result of a thinking of the arteries which impairs the flow of oxygen in your blood to your heart and other organs, including the largest one - your skin. Less oxygen means your skin dries and wrinkles faster.  

High blood pressure —> sleep disorders —> fine lines, reduced elasticity, uneven pigmentation

Prehypertension and hypertension are known to cause trouble sleeping  Moreover poor sleep quality is known to raise blood pressure (even in young adults). A recent study found that poor sleep quality accelerates signs of skin aging and weakens the skin’s ability to repair itself at night. In the study, sleep deprived women, ages 30 to 49, showed signs of premature skin aging (fine lines, uneven pigmentation, slackening of skin and reduced elasticity) and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure.

Stress —> high blood pressure —> adult acne

Stress increases cortisol which increase blood pressure. This increase reduces skin regeneration. Normal cortisol rhythm is essential for skin health, especially for preventing bouts of "adult acne.” Elevated cortisol can also cause thinning of the skin, accelerating wrinkling and increase the prominence of blood vessels under skin. Stress can literally make you “age overnight” as impaired cellular processes, can transform a person with a glowing complexion into someone with wrinkled skin and spider veins.

High blood pressure —> type 2 diabetes —> age spots

High blood pressure increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. Just as with high blood pressure, skin problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes. Too much blood sugar in the bloodstream damages blood vessels, which can lead to light brown, age spot-like patches loss of skin elasticity and even dark circles under the eyes.

It’s not just your looks, elevated blood pressure also ages your brain faster

Research found that having even slightly elevated blood pressure - higher than the optimal 120/80 - may age your brain, putting you at risk for memory problems and eventually for dementia and Alzheimer’s. This decline can begin as early as 30-40 years old.

How do you fight the signs of aging and stay looking young?

So, does high blood pressure age you faster? Definitely. Pre-hypertension and high blood pressure should be identified and controlled to prevent premature skin and brain aging, no matter what age you are now. Don’t wait until you are 50 to start. Even if you are in your 20s or 30s you should regularly measure your blood pressure and start tracking it today. The simple habit of tracking blood pressure on your electronic device can lower your blood pressure by 9+ mm of Hg. If successfully reducing blood pressure follows a similar pattern to quit smoking,  you might be able to improve your skin's age by as much as 13 yrs!
Insomnia is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Over time, poor sleep can also lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart, including higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices.

Small changes, big impact

In addition to tracking,  try simple, do-able lifestyle changes including fun ways to lower blood pressure or adding blood pressure friendly foods to your diet. Small changes can make a big impact to lower biological age and be more cost effective and less life-intrusive than Botox, face-lifts, eyelash extensions or booty pops.