High Blood Pressure – Risk Factors & What to do About it
While we are all aware of prevalent lifestyle conditions like high BP, diabetes, and obesity, many people are unaware of their effects on the body. For example, high BP, also called hypertension, is a known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. But did you know it can affect other organs of your body like the kidneys and bones? Shocking right? Hypertension is known as the silent killer because many of its early symptoms often go undiagnosed. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to disability, poor quality of life and may even prove to be fatal.
How Does An Increase In Blood Pressure Affect different Parts of the Body?
Failure to diagnose hypertension earlier on can lead to many health complications. Here’s how increased blood pressure affects different parts of the body:
- Effect on Arteries
High blood pressure affects your blood vessels, especially your arteries. In healthy adults, arteries are flexible, strong, and elastic, and their inner linings are smooth to allow blood to flow without any obstructions. However, if you are hypertensive, your blood pressure is higher than usual as the liquid flows through your arteries. This can cause:
- Damaged Arteries
Hypertension can damage the inner lining of your arteries. In addition, indulging in unhealthy fats in your diet can make the fat collect in your arterial walls, narrowing them, reducing their elasticity, increasing blood pressure, and reducing the flow of blood to other parts of your body.
Another consequence of hypertension is an aneurysm or an arterial bulge. When blood flows under high pressure through a weakened artery, it can form a bulge in it. An aneurysm can be potentially life-threatening if it bursts and results in internal bleeding.
- Effect On The Heart
Along with the vascular system, hypertension also affects your heart. Some common heart problems caused by increased blood pressure are:
- Coronary Artery Disease :
The coronary arteries supply oxygenated blood to your heart. However, in hypertension patients, the coronary arteries cannot maintain a continuous flow of blood to the heart. This can result in chest pain (angina), irregular heart rhythms, and sometimes, even a heart attack.
- Enlarged Heart :
When the blood pressure rises, it forces your heart to pump blood harder to supply blood to the body. Unfortunately, this also results in thickening your left ventricular wall, increasing your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and cardiac death.
- On The Brain
Your brain is highly dependent on oxygenated blood. Even a few seconds without it can cause brain death. Increased blood pressure can damage your brain in one of the following ways:
- Transient Ischaemic Attack :
Hypertension can cause a temporary disruption of blood flow to your brain.
- Stroke :
When your brain cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, your brain cells may die. This is what happens in a stroke. Hypertension can cause small clots to form in your brain, blocking blood flow to it and triggering a stroke.
Other severe hypertension consequences on your brain include illnesses like dementia.
- On The Kidneys
Hypertension has adverse effects on your kidneys too. Your kidneys require healthy blood vessels and healthy blood pressure to filter fluid and waste from your blood. Hypertension can affect your kidney’s filtering process and lead to kidney damage.
- On Genitals
Hypertension can cause sexual dysfunction problems in men. Erectile dysfunction is joint in older men, and hypertension can aggravate the condition. Hypertension can cause sexual dysfunction issues in women, leading to decreased sexual desire, vaginal dryness, and failure to achieve an orgasm.
- On your Sleep
A lesser-known health effect of hypertension is disturbed sleep. Hypertensive patients are known to be insomniacs and find it challenging to continue staying asleep. Sleep disturbance is one of the risk factors of hypertension.
- On the Eyes
Another organ that is affected by hypertension is your eyes. Hypertension can damage the tiny, delicate blood vessels that supply blood to your eyes. Some harmful effects of hypertension on your eyes are:
Retinal Damage :
Increased blood pressure can damage your retina, leading to internal bleeding from the eye, blurred vision, and complete vision loss.
Fluid build-up in the Eyes :
Increased blood pressure can cause choroidopathy or fluid build-up in your eyes, leading to loss of vision.
Nerve Damage :
Blockage in your blood vessels can damage your optic nerve, leading to vision loss.
How To Keep High Blood Pressure In Check?
Despite all these harmful effects of hypertension, all is not bleak! There are many effective ways to keep your blood pressure under check. Some of these include:
- Eating a low sodium diet
- Regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Regular doctor consultations and monitoring
- Taking regular medications
You can easily manage hypertension by identifying and treating symptoms early. In addition, many dietary and lifestyle changes can help you reduce your symptoms and their effect on other parts of your body. For more information, visit BP in Control!
Note of Caution: This article is for information purposes only. Always consult your doctor in case of any blood pressure or other health-related problems.