With high blood pressure being a relatively common condition, many people are tempted to believe it can’t be that dangerous. The truth is, if you do not control your blood pressure through medical treatments and lifestyle changes, it can be very detrimental to your health.
Unfortunately, hypertension does not typically have any symptoms. Therefore, unless you check your pressure levels regularly, you may be unaware of the condition. Read on to gain insights on hypertension and the life-threatening complications it can cause when left untreated.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension occurs when blood flows through your blood vessels at an increased pressure hence pushing against the blood vessel walls. Blood pressure is recorded in two readings – the systolic and diastolic pressure. The systolic reading shows the pressure during a heartbeat while diastolic measures between heartbeats. The normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or lower, while any reading above 140/90 is considered high.
Hypertension does not have any symptoms; hence, a person may not be aware of the condition. However, the increased pressure can eventually cause severe damage to the blood vessels and cause a restricted blood supply to vital organs in the body. The complications start small, but severity increases over time if the blood pressure is not kept in check.
Risk Factors of Untreated High Blood Pressure
When increased blood pressure causes a tear in the artery, bad cholesterol flowing through will attach to the cracks. The cholesterol will form into deposits known as plaque, which narrows the arteries and hinders smooth blood flow throughout the body. When your heart muscle tissue does not receive sufficient blood, it can cause erratic heartbeats and chest pains, which eventually cause a heart attack. Besides, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, which leads to an enlarged left ventricle and a higher risk of a heart attack.
Heart failure occurs when the pumping organ is too weak and damaged due to the extra work required to pump blood through clogged arteries or a previous heart attack. Hence, the heart cannot perform its role effectively. While it may still pump blood, the blood flow is not sufficient to sustain your body. Besides, the enlarged ventricles make your heart work harder. Some of the heart failure signs include shortness of breath, feeling tired, and swelling in the feet or abdomen. With proper treatment of heart failure, your pumping organ can regain strength and increase pumping efficiency.
Several studies have found a link between high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke, making it a significant consequence of untreated hypertension. It results from the blockage of blood vessels responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to the brain. If one of the vessels bursts from the high pressure, the consequences can be devastating. If the brain does not receive vital nutrients and oxygenated blood, the affected area begins to die.
The blood pushing too hard on the artery walls leaves weak spots, which will balloon out as they fill up with blood, causing an aneurysm. The bulges grow large as blood flows to the area, weakening the walls further. Unfortunately, they are undetectable unless they press on another organ or rupture. This can be detrimental if it goes untreated since it can lead to hemorrhagic stroke by bleeding into your brain.
Apart from diabetes, hypertension is one of the leading causes of kidney problems in many adults. The weak and narrow kidney blood vessels are damaged by the high pressure of blood flowing through them and cannot do their job – hence, the waste and fluid cycles back to the body. Besides, the fluid may elevate the blood pressure even further, creating a dangerous cycle.
Peripheral Artery Disease
As plaque builds up, increasing blood pressure cuts the blood flow to the legs leading to severe pain and numbness around the legs and feet. Peripheral Artery Disease often goes undiagnosed since many adults presume it is merely a sign of aging. However, it can lead to stroke or heart attack.
The effects of high blood pressure are far-reaching and detrimental. Therefore, it is crucial to check your blood pressure reading regularly and keep the numbers low for a long and healthy life.