Effects of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the medical term for having high amounts of pressure or tension in the arteries. High blood pressure does not mean high emotional pressure or tension, although stress and high emotion can exacerbate blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured in two parts and a healthy blood pressure should be lower than 120/80. High blood pressure is characterized by a number that is over 120/80. The top number corresponds to the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts, and the bottom number corresponds to the pressure in the arteries once the heart relaxes after each contraction.

There are a number of different types of high blood pressure, and these types are separated into primary high blood pressure and secondary high blood pressure. Primary high blood pressure is a disorder in itself, but secondary high blood pressure is caused by another disease or disorder.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be caused by a number of things, but in 90% of cases, the exact cause cannot be determined although there are a number of risk factors, including:

  • Age – the older an individual is, the more likely they are to develop high blood pressure
  • Race – African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than Caucasians
  • Socio-economic status – those in lower classes are more likely to develop high blood pressure than those in higher classes
  • Obesity – those who are overweight or obese are far more likely to develop high blood pressure, especially those who are apple or pear shaped
  • Salt sensitivity – some people are more sensitive to salt and therefore are more at risk of high blood pressure if they use salt in food or cooking.

Other risk factors include alcohol abuse, medication, lack of physical exercise and taking certain birth control.

Effects of High Blood Pressure

The unfortunate thing about high blood pressure is that it often does not present with symptoms. Quite often, people with high blood pressure do not know that they have high blood pressure until their blood pressure is measured. They may also only know about their high blood pressure when other symptoms begin to present themselves arising from organ damage that is caused by chronic untreated blood pressure.

If high blood pressure does present with symptoms, the individual may experience some of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision and flashing lights
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain and shortness of breath

The effects of high blood pressure that is left untreated for a long period of time do vary from person to person, but organ damage is common. Common problems caused by long-term high blood pressure are as follows:

  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Stroke or mini-stroke, also known as a TIA or transient ischemic attack
  • Eye damage with progressive vision loss
  • Kidney damage or kidney failure
  • Leg pain whilst walking caused by peripheral arterial disease
  • Aneurysms, which are outpouchings of the aorta

Around 1% of all high blood pressure patients will develop malignant hypertension, which is a condition whereby the high blood pressure is very severe. This usually only occurs if the blood pressure has been left untreated for a very long period of time. Malignant hypertension can be very dangerous and it can cause some of the following problems:

  • Bottom number blood pressure which should be below 80 is 140 or over
  • Stroke-like symptoms, as well as nausea, vomiting, headaches and feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • If malignant hypertension is discovered at hospital, emergency intervention will usually happen in order to prevent serious damage such as brain hemorrhaging or strokes

Left untreated, high blood pressure can kill. With that in mind, if you are within the risk groups for high blood pressure, you should have regular check-ups with your doctor to rule out any problems.