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The Dangers of Hypertension

The Dangers of Hypertension

Hypertension (high blood pressure) can cause serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 119.9 million American adults, or 48.1% of the population, have it. And, what’s worse, only 22.5% of them have the condition under control. In 2021, it was the primary or contributing cause in 691,095 deaths.

Your blood pressure normally rises and falls somewhat during the day, but if it stays too high for too long, it can lead to serious complications, including death.

At Northwest Houston Heart Center, cardiologists Dr. A. Adnan Aslam and Dr. Roy Norman stress the importance of regular blood pressure checks. They remind patients that they could have hypertension and be unaware of it; symptoms often go undetected until high blood pressure triggers a medical crisis.

Why it’s important to measure blood pressure

Your arteries are blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your body’s tissues. Blood pressure is a measurement of how much force the blood exerts on your arteries’ walls.

Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers, reported as one number over the other. The upper number (systolic pressure) is the pressure blood exerts against the walls when the heart actively beats. The lower number (diastolic pressure) is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. In healthy adults, a normal blood pressure reading should be in the vicinity of 90/60 to 120/80, as measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

When the readings go above the normal range, the heart has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. That force not only damages the blood vessels, but it can also damage your eyes, kidneys, and even your brain.

Here are the guidelines (reviewed in 2017) for blood pressure categorization, according to the American Heart Association:

Normal Less than 120/80

Elevated 120–129/80

Hypertension Stage 1 130–139/80–89

Hypertension stage 2 140 or higher/90 or higher

Hypertensive crisis Higher than 180/higher than 120

Hypertensive crisis requires medical attention. If your readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mmHg, and if you’re experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, or difficulty speaking, call 911 ASAP!

Complications and dangers of hypertension

Hypertension is often called a “silent killer,” since it often doesn’t cause symptoms until it has become advanced and damaged blood vessels and organs. That’s why you need to get your pressure checked regularly.

If your readings are consistently elevated,  you may see some subtle symptoms, such as:

If you go into hypertensive crisis, you may also experience headaches and nosebleeds.

Hypertension generally causes complications through two mechanisms. The first is atherosclerosis, in which a sticky plaque of cholesterol, fats, proteins, and calcium develops on the blood vessel walls, causing them to harden and narrow. The heart has to pump harder to circulate blood, which only increases the pressure more. It becomes a positive feedback loop.

Hypertension-related atherosclerosis may cause:

On the venous side of the circulatory system, the part that returns deoxygenated blood back to the heart, high pressure can damage both vein walls and the delicate valves that regulate flow. Unable to close, the valves allow blood to flow backward and pool around the damaged area, engorging the vein. Common effects are spider veins or varicose veins.

These aren’t medically serious conditions, but they can develop into later-stage vein disease, including life-threatening blood clots and non-healing leg ulcers that may lead to amputation.

Have you checked your blood pressure recently? If it’s been awhile, or if it’s elevated or higher, then it’s time to come into Northwest Houston Heart Center for a once-over to ensure you’re not in danger.

Give us a call at any of our locations (Tomball, Cypress, Magnolia, and The Woodlands, Texas), or book online today. You can also text us at 832-402-9518.

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