You might feel fine at the moment. But if you have high blood pressure, the truth is that everything is not in fact fine inside your body. By the time you do sense that something isn’t right, chances are the impact on your health could be even more serious.
One in every three adult Americans has high blood pressure — but only half of them get it under control. One reason why so many people let the condition progress is that high blood pressure might not have any noticeable symptoms at all — even when your numbers are already at very dangerous levels.
There’s no sharp pain or discomfort that interrupts your daily routine.
The only effective way to detect high blood pressure is by measuring it. You can do this at home or have it taken when you see your primary care physician. A normal blood pressure should fall below the range of 120/80, meaning the upper number should be less than 120 and the lower number less than 80.
If a one-time test result is high, don’t panic just yet. Blood pressure can vary throughout the day.
Instead, monitor your numbers for a while. If they are consistently high, talk to your primary care physician about how to get it within normal range.
Leaving hypertension untreated can be very dangerous — even fatal. Here is what uncontrolled high blood pressure can do to your body.
Weakened or Ruptured Arteries
Imagine your blood vessels are pipes. High-pressure water traveling through the pipes everyday will cause breaks to form in the walls of the pipes. The higher the pressure, the faster the pipes wear out.
The same goes for your arteries. When tears start to form, cholesterol gets stuck on the walls and blocks blood flow to every part of your body. Over time, a part of the weakened wall of the artery may enlarge and form an aneurysm. If this ruptures, it could cause fatal internal bleeding.
If your heart is not receiving enough blood through the arteries, it will pump harder and eventually get overworked. Because your heart is a muscle, it can become larger as a result.
Your heart muscle may also lose strength and start to pump less blood. When this happens, you are in danger of a heart attack or heart failure.
Most people who have a stroke also have high blood pressure. Uncontrolled hypertension can burst or clog blood vessels in your brain and lead to a stroke.
Severe strokes can cause lifelong issues, including problems with language, vision loss, immobility and memory loss.
In addition to stroke, high blood pressure can also cause certain types of dementia.
Your kidneys use the blood flowing to them to filter waste. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can weaken or harden the network of blood vessels around the kidneys. When this happens, blood can’t get to the kidneys to deliver the nutrients kidneys need..
As a result, your kidneys are unable to filter waste as well. They also lose the ability to control fluid, hormone, acid and salt levels in your body. This means you might have:
- Kidney failure
- Kidney scarring (glomerulosclerosis)
- Kidney artery aneurysm
Usually hypertension alone does not affect vision, but it can cause eye diseases, such as glaucoma, fluid building up under the retina, or blocked veins and arteries in the retina or nerve of the eye. These conditions can lead to impaired vision or complete vision loss.
Other Health Issues Caused by High Blood Pressure
Other diseases that are linked to high blood pressure include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of bone density, increasing the likelihood of broken bones
- Pain or fatigue in the arms, legs and other parts of your body
Knowing the risks of uncontrolled high blood pressure is the first step in learning to manage it well. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, make sure to follow your physician’s instructions carefully in your day-to-day life in order to keep the condition from progressing.
If you are not sure what your blood pressure numbers may mean, contact your primary care physician to have an assessment.
Read More on High Blood Pressure
Next Steps for Patients
- To stay on top of your blood pressure, book your next primary care visit by calling (785) 270-4440. You can also use MyChart to make an appointment.
- Learn more about heart care services at Stormont Vail Health.