7 Common Complications of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as a silent killer as no symptoms are usually presented. The prevalence of hypertension increases further with age, affecting 75% of people over the age of 70. All adults 18 years and older should be screened for high blood pressure. If left unchecked, hypertension can cause stress on multiple organ systems, leading to an array of health problems.
1. Heart Diseases
Persistent high blood pressure cause adaptive changes in the structure and function of the heart and blood vessels. Heart disease is the primary cause of death related to high blood pressure.
When high blood pressure occurs, the blood vessels constrict to regulate blood flow throughout the body. This will lead to thickening of the blood vessels to sustain the pressure, including that of the coronary artery; the arterial supply of the heart. This, in turn, will cause coronary artery disease (CAD).
The heart also endures greater strain as it beats against the increasing resistance of the blood vessels. As a result, the left chamber of the heart will be enlarged due to having to pump blood to the rest of the body. This will increase the likelihood of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and other health complications. Heart failure symptoms may be subtle in hypertension, like tiredness or reduced physical capacity.
The well-documented, increased risk of stroke in hypertensive population need not be reiterated. Hypertension is by far the most common risk factor identified in stroke patients. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted. Persistent high blood pressure causes lesions in the walls of the blood vessel including that of the brain, which may result in either stroke due to a block of blood flow (ischemic stroke) or bleeding in the brain (intracerebral haemorrhage).
Rarely, hypertension may also cause acute hypertensive encephalopathy, in which a headache, confusion, coma, and fits may occur, especially in malignant phase hypertension.
If you have high blood pressure, you and those around you need to recognise the signs of an impending stroke, including slurred speech and blurred vision. Contact emergency services immediately if you begin to experience these symptoms, or someone with you notices you are acting strangely.
Diabetes can be both the result and the cause of hypertension. In other words, diabetes can lead to hypertension or it can be the complication of hypertension.
Diabetes and hypertension can both affect how blood and nutrients are circulated throughout the body. Diabetes is often worsened by hypertension because high blood pressure places pressure on organs that are already affected by diabetes, such as the kidneys and eyes. Fortunately, early diagnosis and strict diet regimen can control and prevent the conditions from worsening.
4. Kidney Disease
The decline of kidney function with age is faster with high blood pressure. In chronic hypertension the blood vessel supplying the kidney thickens, resulting in reduced blood flow and stop the kidneys’ smallest functioning unit known as nephrons. The loss of functioning nephrons can eventually lead to chronic renal failure. The kidneys are functioned to filter waste; kidney failure may cause a range of serious health issues.
5. Eye Disease
Hypertension can have a direct impact on eyes function. Hypertensive disease of the eye is known as hypertensive retinopathy. Your doctor can inspect the back of your eye (in which retina is located) directly using ophthalmoscope. Damage of the retina, the vital part of the eye that is responsible for vision can lead to significant vision problems.
Patients with hypertensive retinopathy may not present with symptoms until late in the disease. The higher and the longer the blood pressure has been elevated, the more severe the damage is likely to be. The changes in the retina may cause double or dim vision, headaches, visual disturbances and loss of vision.
High blood pressure that emerges prior to or during pregnancy can result in a condition known as preeclampsia. It is not to be confused with gestational hypertension, which is a more common elevation of blood pressure usually occurring during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
Preeclampsia, if it does emerge during pregnancy, must be carefully monitored because it could prevent the unborn child from getting the blood and oxygen it needs to ensure healthy development in the womb. The mother, meanwhile, could suffer from multiple organ damage such as her liver, kidneys and even brain. Serious cases of preeclampsia can include seizures that could cause significant health damage to the mother or unborn child.
7. Erectile Dysfunction
Hypertension or its medications can cause erectile dysfunction in men. The prevalence of erectile dysfunction is approximately 2 times higher in hypertensive patients compared to the normal population. Left untreated, this could have a significant impact on one’s relationships and self-esteem. But fret not, there are medications that can counter this effect and allow men with hypertension to lead more normal lives. Your doctor may switch your medication to angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) as a first-line treatment in hypertensive patients with erectile dysfunction. Phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors such as Viagra was also safe to use in hypertensive patients.