Dangers Of Hypertension
What’s so bad about high blood pressure? Oh there is plenty! Your heart, kidneys, and other organs, as well as your blood vessels, simply aren’t designed to handle constant pressure. They need to relax at lower pressure levels to stay healthy. Over time, hypertension can lead to serious health problems, including the following:
Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke. That’s because high blood pressure can cause atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries), a condition in which sticky stuff called plaque attaches itself to the inside walls of arteries and slows the flow of blood. Doctors aren’t quite sure how this happens. They believe that high blood pressure might injure the cells that line your arteries. This may lead to chemical reactions that make the cholesterol flowing through your blood attach to artery walls. Over time, this can cause plaque deposits.
When an artery feeding your brain gets too narrow because of plaque, you’re at risk of what’s called an ischemic stroke, in which a blood clot gets stuck in the narrowed section of the blood vessel. Suddenly, blood can’t flow to the brain. Without blood, brain cells can’t get oxygen and may start to die. A full-blown ischemic stroke can be fatal.
A burst blood vessel in the brain can cause a very serious type of stroke called a hemorrhagic stroke. Unlike an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood from the broken artery spills into the brain, causing pressure to build up in the skull. This can deprive parts of the brain of vital oxygen. The result can be irreversible brain damage. People with hypertension are far more likely to suffer hemorrhagic strokes than people with normal blood pressure.
People with hypertension also are more likely to experience transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes. These are like ischemic strokes, except that the blockage either isn’t complete or eventually opens up. While not always as serious as ischemic strokes, mini-strokes can cause permanent damage to the brain over time. Depending on where the blockage occurs, you could lose control over parts of your body, have difficulty with speech, or develop any number of other problems.
Hypertension also increases your chances of developing an irregular heartbeat. One type of irregular heartbeat is called atrial fibrillation. This jumpy heartbeat can force a blood clot out of the heart and into the body. If the clot finds its way to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Men with high blood pressure are 50 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than men with normal pressure. Women with high blood pressure have a 40 percent greater risk than women with normal pressure.