What Are the Dangers of High Blood Pressure?
A high blood pressure reading is not a good thing. We all know this, but what are the real dangers of high blood pressure?
In this article, we explore what hypertension is, the causes of it, symptoms, and the various dangers that are associated with it. Let’s dive in.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. High blood pressure means there is a high amount of blood pressing on your blood vessel walls. This may happen from blockages or constrictions, which can become dangerous as they either block blood flow or make the heart work much harder than it normally does.
Generally, a high blood pressure reading involves a systolic blood pressure number over 140 and a diastolic blood pressure number over 80. In contrast, a normal blood pressure reading sits around 120/80.
Surprisingly, about half of all American adults have high blood pressure. It’s a major marker of various cardiovascular diseases, such as an aneurysm or stroke. Unless a person gets their blood pressure under control, it could potentially become life threatening.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Generally, the causes of high blood pressure can be categorized in two different ways. Primary hypertension is where there is no identifiable cause. In these cases, a person’s blood pressure may gradually creep up over time.
Secondary hypertension, on the other hand, is more sudden. It happens due to another condition, such as kidney issues, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid issues, adrenal gland problems, congenital defects, diabetes, or certain medications. In fact, chronic kidney disease is a very common cause of hypertension. Without the kidneys doing their job of filtering out excess fluid, it builds in the blood.
Are You at Risk?
Various risk factors are associated with a high blood pressure. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Age. The risk associated with high blood pressure increases as you age, especially after the age of 60. This is due to the arteries becoming more stiff and because of plaque build-up.
- Ethnicity. High blood pressure tends to be more common in those with African heritage.
- Family history. If your family has a history of high blood pressure, you are more at risk.
- Obesity. With more weight, you require more blood to circulate the nutrients and oxygen to all the cells in the body that need it. Consequently, this causes your body to create a higher volume of blood which can lead to high blood pressure.
- Regular alcohol and tobacco use. Tobacco raises your blood pressure temporarily and it also damages your artery walls. When the artery walls become damaged, they can narrow, which can increase your blood pressure via less room for the blood to move through. Alcohol, on the other hand, can damage your internal organs, including your heart. Ultimately, this can also impact your blood pressure.
- Your Diet. Eating too much sodium results in fluid retention which can lead to hypertension. Too little potassium can also cause fluid retention, leading to a similar scenario.
- Stress. When you are under stress, your blood pressure can temporarily rise. With chronic stress, this may not go away.
- Pre-existing health conditions. As previously mentioned, underlying health conditions, such as kidney issues and diabetes, can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Symptoms
The majority of individuals do not have any symptoms indicating that they have high blood pressure. Most individuals find out at the doctor’s office. In more rare circumstances, a person may experience shortness of breath, headaches, sleep problems, excessive sweating, or nosebleeds. However, these are not exactly tell-tale signs and these symptoms could indicate other conditions are at play.
The Dangers of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure should become a concern since it may lead to various chronic conditions. It could potentially lead to a heart attack, aneurysm, or stroke, which are all life-threatening. It can also impact the kidneys and their function and may lead to metabolic syndrome.
Further, it may cause cognitive issues, such as difficulty with memory or understanding, as well as dementia. This is due to narrowed or blocked arteries.
Therefore, if you have a high blood pressure reading, you will want to do everything within your power to get it under control.
Dealing With High Blood Pressure
You’ve found out you have high blood pressure; now what? Generally, getting hypertension under control frequently involves lifestyle changes. This means eating a healthy and balanced diet, with potentially less sodium and more potassium. Your doctor may recommend you begin regular exercise, as well as potentially lose weight if excess weight is a contributing factor. Further, limiting your alcohol intake and avoiding tobacco can also help you get your blood pressure under control.
In more severe cases, your doctor may place you on medication. Most often, this medication is a temporary fix until you can solve the problem through lifestyle factors. Common medications include thiazide diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers and calcium channel blockers. Many of these medications help eliminate excess water and relax the blood vessels.
If you suspect high blood pressure, you’ll want to make a plan with your doctor to get it checked out. Then, determine where you can improve and take the necessary steps forward to get your health back under your control.