Read on to know how hypertension leads to arterial damage, stroke, heart diseases and kidney diseases
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a silent killer. It can quietly damage your blood vessels and organs in your body and you may not know about it. If left uncontrolled hypertension can put you in dire trouble. The excessive pressure can cause life-threatening complications. The higher your blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, greater is the damage.
Your normal blood pressure is recorded as 120/80mmHg. The first number denotes the systolic pressure or the pressure in the arteries when your heart contracts. The second number is the diastolic pressure or the pressure when the heart rests between each heartbeat. Either or both these numbers may be high when you have hypertension.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to several complications. Prof K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India, Delhi, says, “While high systolic pressure can cause stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, high diastolic pressure causes subtle damage like cognitive impairment.”
Increased pressure of blood flow through your arteries can damage the cells of your arteries and cause narrowing of arteries in the long run. The artery walls become thick and stiff causing hardening of arteries. Fats from your diet enter your bloodstream, pass through the damaged cells and collect in the form of plaque resulting in atherosclerosis. These changes can affect arteries in your body blocking the blood flow to your heart, kidneys, brain, arms and legs.
These changes can then cause angina or chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, blocked arteries in your legs or arms, eye damage and aneurysms. An aneurysm is a form of bulge or an enlargement that may form in the weakened wall of an artery because of constant high blood pressure. The bulge can rupture and cause internal bleeding that can prove life-threatening.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can damage your heart in many ways. Your coronary arteries, which supply blood to your heart muscle, become narrow and the blood is not able to flow freely to your heart, you can get chest pain, irregular heart beat or arrhythmia or a heart attack.
Hypertension forces your heart to work harder in order to pump blood to the other parts of the body. This may cause the left ventricle of the heart to thicken, thus lowering its ability to pump blood to your body. The condition increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and sudden death. Continuous high blood pressure over a period of time weakens your heart muscle making your heart work less effectively.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause stroke by damaging and weakening the blood vessels in your brain. The blood vessels become narrow, rupture or leak or blood clots may form in the arteries reaching your brain. All these can block the blood flow to the brain causing a stroke. At times a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) can occur. This involves a temporary disruption of blood supply to your brain. The cause may be atherosclerosis or a blood clot. TIA more often is a warning signal for a full-fledged stroke.
The narrowing and blockage of arteries supplying blood to the brain because of high blood pressure can cause dementia; a brain disease affecting your thinking speech, reasoning, vision, memory and movement. There can be a mild cognitive impairment that comes with ageing such as Alzheimer’s disease.
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels leading to your kidneys and tiny blood vessels within your kidneys resulting in kidney disease or nephropathy. Diabetes can further worsen the damage. Kidney failure can occur when your kidneys stop functioning well and they cannot filter waste from the blood effectively. Scarring of glomeruli; the tiny clusters of blood vessels within your kidney can also occur resulting in kidney failure. If both your kidneys get affected, you may require dialysis or kidney transplantation.
Another serious condition is kidney artery aneurysm when a bulge occurs in the renal artery that supplies blood to the kidney, which can rupture and cause internal bleeding.