As the heart works to pump blood throughout the body, it causes an exertion of pressure against the arterial walls. This is known as blood pressure, and can be either normal, high (hypertension) or low (hypotension) depending on its range.
- Ideal and Normal – 120 (systolic) / 80 (diastolic) mmHG
- Hypertension – Higher than 140 mmHG (systolic) or higher than 90mmHG (diastolic)
- Hypotension – Lower than 90 mmHG (systolic) or lower than 60mmHG (diastolic)
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure in particular can be incredibly dangerous as symptoms often do not occur until it is severe and potentially life-threatening. As hypertension can progressively and quietly damage the body for years without notice, it is commonly known as the “silent killer.” In fact, according to the World Health Organization, hypertension is actually a major cause of premature death worldwide.
In most cases of hypertension, the arteries become severely affected due to the excessive pressure on the artery walls. This can cause coronary artery disease whereby the damaged arteries are unable to effectively deliver blood to the heart and aneurysms. An aneurysm occurs when a part of a weakened artery wall enlarges and forms a bulge that can cause potential internal bleeding if it ruptures.
Over time, complications with the arteries and any problem with blood flow will eventually cause tissue and organ damage that affects a person’s overall wellbeing and quality of life. These complications include:-
Damage to the Heart
A major cause of heart complications, hypertension can result in:
- Left Ventricular Hypertrophy – When the heart works too hard due to the high pressure of hypertension, the left side of the heart in the lower chamber (left ventricle) thickens and can lead to other more serious heart conditions including heart attacks, heart failures and sudden cardiac arrest.
- Heart Failure – Overworked for long periods of time, the heart begins to weaken due to the damage caused and is no longer able to pump blood efficiently and effectively throughout the body.
- Heart Attack – The thickening or hardening of arteries often caused by hypertension can cause a blockage in the heart, leading to a heart attack whereby parts of or the entire heart dies due to a lack of blood.
Damage to the Brain
Just like the heart, a disruption in blood flow to the brain can cause a number of issues with the brain including:
- Strokes – Similar to a heart attack, a stroke occurs when parts of the brain die due to a blockage in the blood vessels. A stroke can also occur due to a rupture or leakage of blood that causes pressure on the brain. This in turn can affect other parts of the body including language skills, vision, movement, and everything else the brain controls.
- Cognitive Impairments – Issues with brain memory and understanding that often feels like a brain fog, thus impairing a person’s ability to think, remember and learn. While concrete evidence as to why hypertension is a cause for mild cognitive decline is still inconclusive, a reduction in blood flow could be a correlating factor.
- Dementia – A more serious case of cognitive impairment, high blood pressure can lead to what is known as vascular dementia, a type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. It is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
Damage to the Kidneys
An important organ that filters fluid, waste, and toxins from the blood, hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels that lead to the kidneys as well as within the kidneys. In fact, hypertension is one of the most common causes of a weakened kidney, and can lead to:
- Glomerulosclerosis – A type of kidney damage whereby the blood vessels become scarred, thus causing the kidney to be unable to effectively do its job. When serious, this can lead to kidney failure and incidentally, further raise blood pressure levels.
- Kidney Failure - When kidney function is below 15% of normal, it is termed kidney failure and requires dialysis or kidney transplant for a person to continue living. This is because dangerous amounts of fluid and waste will begin to build-up within the body.
Damage to the Eyes
Our eyes rely on a network of tiny blood vessels to obtain nutrients and oxygen. Due to how small and delicate these blood vessels are, hypertension can easily strain or cause damage. This can not only cause you to lose sight, it can also affect the eyes in the following ways:
- Retinopathy – A damage to the blood vessels in the retina (light sensitive are at the back of the eyes where images focus) can lead to various problems such as a bleeding eye, blurred vision, and even complete loss of vision (blindness).
- Choroidopathy – A build-up of fluid under the retina that often distorts vision and sometimes scarring.
- Optic Neuropathy – Nerve damage that causes bleeding in the eye or complete vision loss.
Other Types of Damages
Aside from the above main organs, hypertension can also affect other various issues including sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction and lower female libido, metabolic syndrome, and many others. Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of disorders relating to the body’s metabolism and affects issues like waist size, cholesterol levels and insulin levels.
Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
On the other hand, low blood pressure or hypotension is a less commonly observed danger when it comes to blood pressure readings, and usually does not pose a problem for most healthy people. It can, however, cause sudden dizziness and fainting spells that may result in danger.
Hypotension can also sometimes be indicative of other more serious problems including heart issues such as angina, endocrine issues (system of glands that produce hormones) or neurological conditions (brain and nerves). When abnormally low, it can also become extremely dangerous and lead to a condition known as Shock as the body’s vital organs are unable to receive sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients. When this happens, the first organ to malfunction is usually the brain as the blood flow is unable to fight gravity.
- Shock – Without enough oxygen and nutrients, cells and organs begin to malfunction. If not quickly restored, these cells and organs will eventually die and can lead to a person’s death.
What You Can Do
Pay close attention to your blood pressure levels as it is a key indicator of one’s health. While blood pressure may vary in readings throughout the day and can be dependent on one’s diet, level of stress or any sudden emotions – an average reading taken over several readings twice a day can help one more accurately determine blood pressure. Having a digital blood pressure monitor at home is an effective way to monitor health and can be useful in detecting any signs of potential health risk and sudden dangers.
Get your own digital blood pressure monitor today.
References/Sources: American Heart Association, British Heart Foundation, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthdirect, Healthline, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Mayoclinic, MSD, WebMD, National Kidney Foundation, NHS UK, NIA, NIDDK, NIH, World Health Organization, Texas Heart Institute, UPMC