Coronary Heart Disease: The same plaque that blocks arteries to the brain can clog arteries that feed the heart. Remember that all cells need oxygen from the bloodstream to survive. So reducing the amount of blood to the heart muscle can drastically weaken it. If a blood clot gets stuck in one of these heart arteries (called coronary arteries), heart muscle cells can die. This is a heart attack. When too many heart muscle cells die, or when the heart muscle has been strained for a long time, the heart can’t pump blood through the body very well. This is called heart failure. Obviously, both a heart attack and heart failure are extremely serious and sometimes fatal.
Kidney Damage: Your kidneys are responsible for removing excess fluid and waste from your body. They work by filtering the blood that passes through them. But high blood pressure can damage the arteries within the kidneys. It can also narrow the arteries that feed blood to the kidneys. Either way, the kidneys become less efficient at removing fluid and waste. The worst-case scenario is called renal failure – a complete shutdown of kidney function. When this happens, you need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
High blood pressure can be double trouble where your kidneys are concerned. If you have hypertension, you might suffer kidney damage and reduced kidney function. This, in turn, can lead to even higher blood pressure, since your kidneys won’t be able to remove excess fluid from the bloodstream. This is why controlling high blood pressure is so important. It breaks the vicious circle of damage.
Aneurysm: Constant high blood pressure puts quite a strain on your arteries. It can cause them to develop bulges that balloon out and weaken over time. Sometimes these bulges, called aneurysms, burst, causing drastic problems.
When the burst blood vessel is in the brain, the result is a hemorrhagic stroke. Another type of aneurysm involves the aorta, the huge artery that carries blood from the heart down the chest and into your midsection. Over time, extra pressure can weaken this vital artery and cause it to burst. In especially bad cases, the weak spot can actually split the walls of the aorta – a condition known as a dissecting aortic aneurysm. This type of aneurysm causes tremendous pain in your chest, abdomen, or back. Lowering blood pressure can reduce your chances of developing an aneurysm. If you already have one, you may need surgery to repair it. If the aneurysm is small, your doctor may just monitor it to make sure it doesn’t increase in size and require an operation to fix.