February is American Heart Month: It’s a time to look at preventing heart disease and stroke.

According to the American Heart Association, one of the leading risk factors for that is high blood pressure or hypertension. Nearly half of Americans have hypertension and it can lead to some major issues.

New research shows that having high blood pressure at any age can lead to cognitive decline. Meaning it could cause you to have memory or concentration issues.

“It’s pretty dramatic and it even starts in those pre hypertension ranges,” said Dr. Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, the Director of Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical support at Tampa General Hospital.

She says high blood pressure causes changes in the vasculature or blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. And that’s the problem. “The brain is the most sensitive organ to good blood supply, so if the blood supply is not as good because there’s changes in the vasculature because of hypertension then it would end up causing some degree of cognitive decline.”

So what can you do to prevent high blood pressure? Make some healthy lifestyle changes like exercising, losing weight, decreasing alcohol and eating less salt.