10 ways hypertension or High BP affects your body
High blood pressure or hypertension is the leading cause of premature deaths worldwide. It is a major risk factor for heart attacks and heart failure. But elevated blood pressure is linked to a more than just heart disease! Long standing hypertension can cause problems with your vision (hypertensive retinopathy) and decrease blood supply to your legs. It can cause stroke, bleeding from large blood vessel (aortic aneurysm), chronic kidney disease (hypertensive nephropathy), etc. Here are ten ways high blood pressure affects your body.
Affects the blood vessels
In hypertension the wall of the blood vessels lose their elasticity and become firm or hard, a condition called arteriosclerosis. Because of the constant pressure the walls of the artery become weak and over time, may cause a part of it to bulge. This forms an aneurysm (distension or a pouch-like structure in the vessel wall) which can rupture and is invariably fatal.
Fails your heart
High blood pressure thickens and damages the lining of the blood vessels of the heart.The damaged blood vessels are prone to the formation of clots which can grow and block the blood supply to the heart. This can reduce the efficiency of the heart and also damage its tissues leading to angina (chest pain). Increased blood pressure also increases the workload of the heart.This causes thickening of its muscle wall especially the left ventricle (left ventricular hypertrophy)which in turn compromises the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to the different organs eventually leading to heart failure.
Affects the brain
Hypertension increases the risk of brain haemorrhage (stroke) by almost 10 times. According to a research, even if your blood pressure (BP) is slightly elevated, you may be prone to a stroke. In fact high BP is responsible for 80% of all heart attacks and stroke. Increased blood pressure weakens the small vessels in the brain causing them to rupture. Interruption of blood flow to the brain may also increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
Damages your kidney
Even your kidneys are not spared. Damage to the small vessels in the kidney due to elevated blood pressure reduces the blood supply to it. The kidney starts losing its normal functions like regulating the body fluid, hormones, salts, etc.and also regulating the blood pressure. This eventually leads to kidney failure.
Causes problems with your vision (hypertensive retinopathy)
Your eyes may pay the price too. If you are hypertensive, the possibility of suffering from dry eyes increases.Blood vessels in the eye (retinal vessels) are narrowed and the vision can get impaired leading to retinopathy and eventually blindness.
Causes sexual dysfunction
All the complications of hypertension mainly stem from thickening of the vessel walls, leading to reduced blood flow to different body parts. The arteries supplying the penis are not spared too. They can get narrowed leading to reduced blood supply to the penis, and hence can cause erectile dysfunction – an inability to maintain an erection while having sex. In women, high blood pressure can reduce blood flow to the vagina which may lead to dryness of vagina, decreased sexual desire, etc. The medication for hypertension may only add to your woes. Some anti-hypertensive medications may also cause erection problems in men and low sex drive in women.
High blood pressure during pregnancy can caused reduced blood flow to the placenta depriving the oxygen and nutrient supply to the growing baby. This can lead to decreased growth and low birth weight of the baby. Preeclampsia, a more severe form of high blood pressure during pregnancy,can cause passing of protein in the urine and affect other vital organs leading to serious complications for mother and baby. According to a research, high blood pressure during pregnancy could dramatically increase a woman’s stroke risk by as high as 40 per cent.
Causes painful cramps in the legs (Peripheral artery disease)
Untreated longstanding high blood pressure can affect the blood vessels in your extremities too. It can narrow down and harden the blood vessels of the legs leading to a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD can affect the blood circulation in the leg and cause painful cramps.
Disturbs your sleep
High blood pressure and sleep are interrelated. According to research, people with high blood pressure are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep leading to disrupted sleep and daytime tiredness. Studies have also shown that severe OSA contributes to resistant hypertension, i.e. poor blood pressure control in spite of aggressive use of anti-hypertensive drugs.
May cause bone loss
High blood pressure can cause abnormalities of calcium metabolism. According to studies, it causes increased calcium elimination from the body, especially in older women. This sustained calcium loss may eventually be responsible for increased bone loss.