Did you know that you may be prone to or already have high blood pressure (HBP) also called hypertension since too many adults have it? Statistically, one in three adults has HBP, and those who leave it uncontrolled mostly end up with severe health complications.
One of the most troubling facts about hypertension is that it’s “a silent killer when left untreated” and only becomes symptomatic “if the pressure is very high. It is important to always monitor your blood pressure and take any medications prescribed, whether you feel symptoms or not,” says Jason McKnight, MD, MS, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.
How does high blood pressure impact the following important parts of the body: the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes?
IMPACT ON THE HEART
If you have hypertension, your heart can become enlarged. “The higher the blood pressure, the harder the heart works,” and “The harder the heart works, the bigger the heart muscle gets.” If you want to prevent having congestive heart failure, avoid developing an enlarged heart.
Furthermore, the harder the heart works, the more blood it needs. But always clear blockages in the blood vessels that supply your heart, or coronary arteries to avoid a heart attack.
If these vessels balloon out, they can lead to an aneurysm within the aorta, but if they rupture, it can be fatal. If the pressure on the wall is high, the wall may eventually split in half and cause an aortic dissection which in many circumstances requires surgical repair.
IMPACT ON THE KIDNEYS
Kidneys filter excess fluid and waste from the blood. This means that kidneys use an understandably good amount of blood vessels to go through the filtering process. According to McKnight “long-standing hypertension can eventually lead to renal failure, which sometimes requires dialysis to stay alive.”With time, HBP can weaken or harden the vessels and arteries around the kidneys, preventing the kidneys from getting sufficient blood.
IMPACT ON THE BRAIN
HBP symptoms can include a major headache, a stroke, seizures and even death. It can increase your blood pressure to the point of a brain artery rupture, leading to an intracerebral hemorrhage (a life-threatening stroke that happens due to bleeding within the brain tissue)
Research also attributes hypertension to vascular dementia (caused by several long-term small strokes) Dementia is a gradual and long-lasting loss of brain function which usually affects memory, thinking, judgment, language, and behavior.
IMPACT ON THE EYES
When you go to your ophthalmologist, your blood pressure usually gets checked. Do you know why? It’s because they can find clues about your blood pressure by looking at the blood vessels in your eyes.
That part of the eye that sees things (the retina) is composed of blood vessels running through it, and high blood pressure does change the way these blood vessels function. If hypertension is left uncontrolled, the result can be glaucoma, blindness, and macular degeneration.
One important thing you should know is that most cases of HBP are called essential hypertension because they have no major cause. This means the causes are mostly genetic. Also, people with pre-existing issues like kidney disease, hormonal issues, and those experiencing effects of certain medications such as decongestants for allergies or colds are more likely to suffer from HBP.
Make sure you embrace a healthy diet and active lifestyle to decrease your risk of high blood pressure. If controlling it is failing, consult your health care provider early on to suggest medications or another therapy that can work for you.