Complications of High Blood Pressure: What You Need to Know

Heart | May 12, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist

Heart Attack, Hypertension, Blood pressure, Stroke

Complications of High Blood Pressure: What You Need to Know

Your heart is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood to the other organs in your body. Large blood vessels called arteries carry blood away from the heart, while smaller vessels called veins carry blood toward the heart. Arteries have thicker walls than veins, which helps them withstand the force of the blood as it travels through the circulatory system. A measurement of this force is known as blood pressure. In healthy people, a blood pressure reading of less than 130/90 is considered normal, according to the National Health Service. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or you care for a loved one with this condition, it is important to keep it under control with diet, exercise, or medications prescribed by your doctor. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases the risk for stroke, heart attack, and other serious complications.

Complications of HypertensionStroke

Stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels that supplies the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. High blood pressure damages the arteries, putting you at risk for haemorrhages or blockages in the blood vessels supplying your brain. The effects of a stroke depend on which area of the brain is affected. If the stroke affects the central language area of your brain, you might have difficulty speaking, writing, performing calculations, and understanding other people when they are talking. Damage to a part of the brain called Broca's area causes difficulty speaking. In some people, it also makes it difficult to write. Some people also experience loss of coordination on one side of the body, left- or right-sided paralysis, and loss of sensation in the limbs.

Heart Attack

The heart is a muscle that contracts and relaxes in a specific rhythm. If one of the blood vessels supplying the heart is blocked, the blockage cuts off the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. If the oxygen flow is not restored quickly, the affected part of the heart muscle starts to die. This is what is known as a heart attack. If you do not keep your blood pressure under control, you have a greater risk of developing coronary artery disease, which is the accumulation of plaque in the arteries supplying the heart. The presence of plaque causes the arteries to narrow, increasing the risk of blockages that can prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart muscle. Uncontrolled high blood pressure also damages the arteries, making it easier for fatty deposits to build up along the arterial walls.

Hypertensive Heart Disease

Hypertensive heart disease is a set of problems caused by high blood pressure in the arteries. In addition to coronary artery disease, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure may develop heart failure. If you develop systolic heart failure, your heart will be unable to pump blood efficiently. If you develop diastolic heart failure, your heart muscles will stiffen, making it difficult for them to fill with blood. The signs and symptoms of heart failure include heart palpitations, fatigue, cough, weakness, shortness of breath during physical activity, swollen ankles, weight gain, and shortness of breath when lying down. In some people with high blood pressure, there is also abnormal thickening of the heart muscle. This condition is called hypertrophy. The best way to avoid hypertensive heart disease is to control your blood pressure. If you take medications, do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor. A low-sodium diet and regular physical activity may also help you keep your blood pressure within the normal range.

Aneurysm

Too much force against the walls of your arteries can cause weaknesses in the blood vessels. In some cases, these weaknesses turn into balloon-like bulges. These bulges are called aneurysms. Most aneurysms are found in the main artery that delivers oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body, but these weaknesses can also develop in other arteries. Aneurysms are dangerous because they can burst and cause severe bleeding inside the body. If you do not do a good job controlling your blood pressure, you may develop a large aneurysm that requires surgery.

Kidney Disease

Your vital organs cannot work properly if they don't get the oxygen they need. Uncontrolled high blood pressure stretches the blood vessels, which causes the arteries to weaken. This restricts blood flow to the kidneys, impairing their ability to function normally. The kidneys are responsible for filtering wastes from the blood, maintaining a normal amount of fluid in the body, and producing urine. When the kidneys don't get enough oxygen, they are unable to carry out these functions normally. Extra fluid in the body increases the amount of pressure on the walls of your arteries, which will make it more difficult to keep your blood pressure under control. If you are in the early stages of kidney disease, you may not have any symptoms. Advanced kidney disease causes muscle cramps, headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, weight loss, shortness of breath, darkened skin, and chest pain.

Blindness

If you value your ability to see things clearly, you will make it a priority to keep your blood pressure as close to normal as possible. Over time, high blood pressure damages the blood vessels that supply the eyes. If these vessels sustain severe damage, you could experience vision problems or total blindness. Managing your blood pressure with medications and lifestyle changes is the best way to prevent arterial damage and reduce your risk of complications.

Taking Action

Some people do not take high blood pressure seriously, but this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Too much force against the walls of the arteries can damage your blood vessels even if you do not have any symptoms of high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is still high even though you are following your doctor's instructions, schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns. You might need to lose weight or take a different medication to get your blood pressure within the normal range. If someone you love has uncontrolled high blood pressure, explain the potential complications and offer support if your loved one needs help making diet changes or starting an exercise programme.

References

NHS Choices: High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Blood Pressure UK: Stroke and High Blood Pressure British Heart Foundation: Blood Pressure Blood Pressure UK: Heart Failure and High Blood Pressure National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What is a Heart Attack? MedlinePlus: Hypertensive Heart Disease National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What is an Aneurysm? National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease Texas Heart Institute: High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

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