Two Rivers: High Blood Pressure
Defining high blood pressure:
High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels, is consistently too high.
The damage starts in your arteries and heart
The primary way that high blood pressure causes harm is by increasing the workload of the heart and blood vessels — making them work harder and less efficiently.
Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries. In turn, LDL (bad) cholesterol forms plaque along tiny tears in the artery walls, signifying the start of atherosclerosis.
The more the plaque and damage increases, the narrower (smaller) the insides of the arteries become — raising blood pressure and starting a vicious circle that further harms your arteries, heart and the rest of your body. This can ultimately lead to other conditions ranging from arrhythmia to heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. High blood pressure is a “silent killer”
- Many people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it.
- High blood pressure develops slowly over time and can be related to many causes.
- High blood pressure cannot be cured. However, it can be managed very effectively through lifestyle changes and, when needed, medication.
Left uncontrolled or undetected, high blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart attack — High blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood from flowing to tissues in the heart muscle.
- Stroke — High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst or clog more easily.
- Heart failure — The increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body.
- Kidney disease or failure — High blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to effectively filter blood.
- Vision loss — High blood pressure can strain or damage blood vessels in the eyes.
- Sexual dysfunction — This can be erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women.
- Angina — Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or microvascular disease. Angina, or chest pain, is a common symptom.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) — Atherosclerosis caused by high blood pressure can cause a narrowing of arteries in the legs, arms, stomach and head, causing pain or fatigue
Can hypertension cause other problems?
When your blood pressure is too high for too long, it damages your blood vessels — and LDL cholesterol begins to accumulate along tears in your artery walls. This increases the workload of your circulatory system while decreasing its efficiency. As a result, high blood pressure puts you at greater risk for the development of life-changing and potentially life-threating conditions.
Fighting back against the “silent killer”
While there is no cure, using medications as prescribed and making positive lifestyle changes can help enhance your quality of life and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more.
Know your numbers
The best way to know if your blood pressure is in a healthy or unhealthy range is to get it checked. If high blood pressure is diagnosed, regular monitoring can help confirm if you have high blood pressure, detect patterns and alert you to any changes. It will also show you if the changes you’ve made are working.
Know your risk
Common hereditary and physical risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Family history
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Modifiable risk factors:
- Lack of physical activity
- An unhealthy diet, especially one high in sodium
- Being overweight or obese
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Sleep apnea
- High cholesterol
- Smoking and tobacco use
Managing blood pressure is a lifelong commitment
Listen to and partner with your doctor, read sound information on your condition, learn how to monitor your blood pressure at home and act on this information to live a heart-healthy life.
Make changes that matter:
- Eat a well-balanced, low-salt diet
- Limit alcohol
- Enjoy regular physical activity
- Manage stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Take your medications properly
- Work together with your doctor