High blood pressure can damage your body for years before symptoms show up. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to disability, poor quality of life, and even fatal heart attack or stroke. Lifestyle changes can help control your high blood pressure to reduce the risk of life-threatening complications.
Here is an overview of the complications that uncontrolled hypertension can cause.
Damage to your arteries
Healthy arteries are flexible, strong and elastic. Their inner wall is smooth, so blood circulates freely, supplying vital organs and tissues with nutrients and oxygen.
High blood pressure gradually increases the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries. Therefore, you may have:
– Damaged and narrowed arteries. High blood pressure can damage the cells on the inside lining of your arteries. When fat from your diet enters your bloodstream, it can build up in damaged arteries. Eventually, the walls of your arteries become less elastic, which restricts blood flow throughout your body.
– Aneurysm. Over time, the constant pressure of blood flowing through a weakened artery can cause a section of its wall to widen and form a bulge (aneurysm). An aneurysm can potentially rupture and cause fatal internal bleeding. Aneurysms can form in any artery, but they are most common in the largest artery in your body (the aorta).
Damage to your heart
High blood pressure can cause many heart problems, including:
– Coronary artery disease. The narrowed and damaged arteries caused by high blood pressure have difficulty supplying blood to your heart. When blood can’t flow freely to your heart, you may have chest pain (angina), an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), or a heart attack.
– Enlarged left heart. High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. Part of your heart (left ventricle) then thickens. A thickened left ventricle increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death.
– Heart failure. Over time, the pressure put on your heart by high blood pressure can cause your heart muscle to weaken and work less efficiently. After a while, your overwhelmed heart begins to fail. The damage caused by heart attacks further aggravates this problem.
Your brain depends on a nourishing blood supply to function properly. But high blood pressure can cause several problems, including
– Transient ischemic attack (TIA). Sometimes called a “mini-attack”, a TIA is a brief, temporary interruption of the blood supply to the brain. Hardening of the arteries or formation of blood clots caused by high blood pressure can cause a TIA. The TIA is often a warning that you are at risk of having a complete stroke.
– Cerebrovascular accident (CVA). A stroke occurs when part of your brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die. Blood vessels damaged by high blood pressure can narrow, rupture, or leak. High blood pressure can also cause blood clots to form in the arteries leading to the brain, blocking blood flow and possibly causing a stroke.
– Madness. Narrowed or blocked arteries can limit blood flow to the brain, which can lead to a certain type of dementia (vascular dementia). A stroke that interrupts blood flow to the brain can also cause vascular dementia.
– Mild cognitive impairment. This state is a transitional stage between the changes in comprehension and memory that usually accompany aging and the more serious problems caused by dementia. Studies suggest that high blood pressure can lead to mild cognitive impairment.
The kidneys filter excess fluid and waste from your blood, a process that requires healthy blood vessels. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels that are in and lead to your kidneys. Having diabetes in addition to high blood pressure can make the damage worse.
Kidney problems caused by high blood pressure include:
– Kidney scars (glomerulosclerosis). This type of kidney damage occurs when tiny blood vessels inside the kidney become scarred and unable to effectively filter fluids and waste from your blood. Glomerulosclerosis can lead to kidney failure.
– Renal failure. High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney failure. Damaged blood vessels prevent the kidneys from effectively filtering waste from your blood, allowing dangerous levels of fluid and waste to build up. You may eventually need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
High blood pressure can damage the tiny, delicate blood vessels that supply blood to the eyes, causing damage to:
– damage to the retina (retinopathy). Damage to the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina) can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision and complete loss of sight. The risk is even greater if you have diabetes in addition to high blood pressure.
– Accumulation of fluid under the retina (choroidopathy). Choroidopathy can cause distorted vision or sometimes scarring that impairs vision.
– Nerve damage (optic neuropathy). A blockage in blood flow can damage the optic nerve, leading to bleeding in the eye or loss of vision.
The inability to get and keep an erection (erectile dysfunction) is becoming more common in men over the age of 50. But men with high blood pressure are even more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. This is because the limited blood flow caused by hypertension can prevent blood from flowing to the penis.
Women can also suffer from sexual dysfunction due to high blood pressure. Decreased blood flow to the vagina can lead to decreased sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm.
Emergencies related to high blood pressure
High blood pressure is usually a chronic disease that causes gradual damage over the years. But sometimes blood pressure rises so quickly and so sharply that it becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment, often with hospitalization.
In these situations, high blood pressure can cause:
– memory loss, personality changes, difficulty concentrating, irritability or progressive loss of consciousness
– Severe damage to the main artery of the body (aortic dissection)
– Chest pain
– Heart attack
– Sudden pumping of the impaired heart, causing fluids to back up into the lungs, causing shortness of breath (pulmonary oedema)
– Sudden loss of kidney function
– Pregnancy complications (preeclampsia or eclampsia)
There are several natural solutions and lifestyle changes to lower and maintain low blood pressure. Consult the numerous articles that we have done on this subject in pressesante.com.
* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.