May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 68 million people in the US have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and it can increase your risk of developing other serious health conditions. Some of the issues linked to hypertension may be life-threatening. Managing your blood pressure can help you avoid the negative effects of high blood pressure.
1. Heart Attack
One of the most common effects of high blood pressure is a heart attack. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost 800,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. A heart attack is the damage of the heart muscle caused by a loss of oxygenated blood supply. Hypertension damages the walls of the arteries within the heart, leading to plaque build-up that can slow or block blood flow. When blood flow in the coronary arteries is blocked, blood flow to the heart is cut off causing a heart attack.
Another one of the effects of high blood pressure is stroke. Over time, high blood pressure damages your blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the brain. Hypertension may lead to hardened arteries, blood clots, or ruptured blood vessels. All of these things can block the flow of blood to the brain, causing a stroke. According to the CDC, most strokes are ischemic strokes caused by a blockage in an artery that cuts off blood flow to the brain.
3. Sexual Dysfunction
Another side effect of high blood pressure is sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Men with high blood pressure may have difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction) if hypertension is reducing the blood flow to the penis. Women may experience a loss of blood flow to the vagina, which can result in vaginal dryness and a lack of physical arousal and desire.
Angina is chest pain caused by the heart not getting enough oxygenated blood. The pain of angina is usually described as a squeezing pressure within the chest. Some people also experience pain in their shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or back. Hypertension can cause damage to the arteries in the heart that may develop blockages that limit or cut off the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart.
5. Kidney Disease
One of the major effects of high blood pressure is Kidney Disease. The kidneys are full of blood vessels. Just like any other organ in the body, the kidneys need blood to function and stay alive. However, many of the blood vessels in the kidneys serve a specific purpose by filtering water and waste out of the blood. When high blood pressure damages these blood vessels, the kidneys are not able to filter blood as well as it needs to.
6. Kidney Failure
As we just learned, kidney disease occurs when kidney function is lost due to damage. There are different stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and each stage is based on how much kidney function remains. When left untreated, CKD worsens over time and the kidneys lose more and more function. Kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) occurs when less than 15% of kidney function remains.
7. Vision Loss
Your eyes are full of tiny blood vessels, so it’s not surprising that high blood pressure can affect your vision. When the blood vessels in the eye are damaged, you lose vision. Hypertension may also put pressure on the optic nerve. Sometimes the vision loss is reversible when blood pressure is controlled.
As we’ve already mentioned, high blood pressure damages and weakens blood vessels over time because it exerts extra pressure on them. If the pressure of blood flowing through a weakened artery is too great, the artery wall may bulge out. This bulge is called an aneurysm. Aneurysms are dangerous because they can rupture and cause internal bleeding in the brain that can cause permanent damage.
9. Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition in which the arteries that lead to the head and limbs are blocked or narrowed. Hardening of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, which is the most common cause of PAD. Hypertension can contribute to atherosclerosis along with high cholesterol. PAD may also be caused by blood clots, which may be another effect of high blood pressure.
10. Heart Failure
Another one of the life-threatening effects of blood pressure is heart failure. When someone has high blood pressure, their heart has to work harder to pump enough blood through the body. Over time, the heart may become enlarged to try and compensate for the increased workload. While your heart will keep pumping blood when it is enlarged, it is not as efficient, which causes it to keep losing function until it eventually fails.
Dr. Farhan Majeed of Pulse: The Heart, Valve, and Vascular Institute specializes in diagnosing and treating common cardiovascular conditions, including those related to high blood pressure. Dr. Majeed provides a wide range of services to care for your cardiovascular health. To schedule an appointment, call (941) 629-2111.