Dec 05, 2023
Hypertension Effects On The Body
Widely prevalent and frequently disregarded, hypertension is a serious health issue with far-reaching effects. Hypertension has been the most studied topic of the current generation and ranks among the most common chronic medical conditions.
Persistent elevation of blood pressure in the arteries is a defining feature of hypertension. The force that blood in circulation applies to the blood vessel walls is known as blood pressure. The heart must pump more forcefully when blood pressure is higher.
Systolic and diastolic blood pressure are the two numbers used to express blood pressure. The pressure in the arteries during a heart contraction, or when the ventricles pump blood out of the heart, is known as systolic pressure. The pressure in the arteries during the period between heartbeats, or diastolic pressure, is what the heart experiences as it fills with blood.
The ideal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg. The current definition of hypertension is systolic blood pressure (SBP) values of 130 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) of more than 80 mmHg.
Although the classification and definition of hypertension have changed over time, it is generally agreed upon that patients with continuous blood pressure readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher should be treated with the standard therapeutic goal of 130/80 mmHg.
SBP < 120 mm Hg and DBP < 80 mm Hg
SBP 120 - 129 and DBP < 80 mm Hg.
Stage 1 hypertension
SBP 130 - 139 or DBP 80 to 89 mmHg
Stage 2 hypertension
SBP >140 mmHg or DBP > or equal to 90 mm Hg
Beyond heart disease, hypertension has a variety of other consequences that can seriously harm a person's health.
This blog post will explore the different impacts of high blood pressure on the body, emphasizing the need for management, awareness, and prevention.
REASONS FOR HYPERTENSION
- Genetics: A history of hypertension in the family may raise the risk.
- Age: Blood pressure tends to rise with age. As people get older, the body’s network of blood vessels loses some elasticity, they become stiff leading to an increase in blood pressure.
- Lifestyle Factors: Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for hypertension. Staying physically inactive for long hours increases the risk of being overweight and increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. Working early or late night shifts is one example of a social factor that can raise your risk.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet high in salt, saturated fats, sugar-sweetened beverages and cholesterol can contribute to hypertension. Too much sodium causes your body to retain fluid which increases the pressure exerted by the blood against blood vessel walls, thereby increasing hypertension. Too much caffeine intake can also raise your blood pressure levels.
- Smoking: Smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, nicotine, the main active ingredient in cigarette smoke stimulates the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are the hormones that increase blood pressure.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can activate your adrenergic nervous system to release adrenaline, resulting in an increase in cardiac output and systolic blood pressure.
- Hormone problem: When the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone or produces too much thyroid hormone, high blood pressure can result. If the adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone and cortisol, it can cause high blood pressure.
- Chronic stress: Long-term stress can contribute to hypertension. Stress hormones can constrict blood vessels and temporarily increase blood pressure. Excessive stress can cause a brief but noticeable spike in blood pressure.
- Being overweight or obese: Excess body weight, particularly, abdominal or visceral fat, can contribute to the development of hypertension. Being overweight puts extra strain on the heart, as the body needs more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues. The pressure inside your arteries rises in proportion to the amount of blood flowing through your blood vessels.
- Sleep apnea: This is a sleep disorder, characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep which leads to changes in oxygen levels and contributes to elevated blood pressure.
- Chronic kidney disease: Chronic kidney disease, can lead to hypertension.
- Medicines: Anti-depressants, decongestants, hormonal birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can all raise your blood pressure. Cough and cold medicines contain decongestants such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. Because these drugs constrict all of your arteries—not just the ones in your nose—your blood pressure and heart rate will increase.
Other potential risks which could develop hypertension include sleep difficulties and noise exposure.
SYMPTOMS OF HYPERTENSION
Hypertension is a silent killer because it typically does not cause noticeable symptoms until it reaches more advanced stages. This is why regular blood pressure monitoring is crucial. In some cases, individuals with extremely high blood pressure may experience symptoms. Possible symptoms of severe hypertension may include:
- Headaches: Persistent, throbbing headaches, especially in the morning, can be a symptom. On the other hand, headaches are not common in many hypertensive individuals.
- Visual changes: Blurred or impaired vision can occur in some cases. This may be a sign of hypertensive retinopathy, where high blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the retina.
- Chest pain: Severe hypertension can lead to chest pain or discomfort. This may be due to an increased workload on the heart.
- Shortness of breath: Breathing problems or dyspnea may arise, particularly during physical activity.
- Dizziness or vertigo: Feeling lightheaded or dizzy, and experiencing episodes of vertigo, may be associated with very high blood pressure.
- Nausea or Vomiting: In extreme cases, hypertension can lead to nausea or vomiting.
Abnormal heart rhythm, nosebleeds, buzzing in the ears, and anxiety are some of the other symptoms of hypertension.
CONSEQUENCES OF PROLONGED HYPERTENSION
1. CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM
1. Hypertension places an excessive burden on the heart and blood vessels, leading to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
2. The heart has to pump blood against increased resistance in the arteries, causing the muscles to thicken over time. This thickening, known as hypertrophy, can eventually lead to conditions such as heart failure.
3. Hypertension contributes to the development of coronary artery disease. Prolonged hypertension can strain the heart to the point where it becomes less effective in pumping blood.
4. The heart may be unable to meet the body’s demand for blood and oxygen, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and fluid retention.
5. Hypertension is a major contributor to atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to the accumulation of plaques. Atherosclerosis can further increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
2. BRAIN HEALTH
1. The brain is highly dependent on a consistent and well-regulated blood supply. Hypertension can damage the delicate blood vessels in the brain, increasing the likelihood of strokes.
2. Long-term hypertension is also associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing conditions like vascular dementia.
3. High blood pressure in midlife can lead to a greater decline in cognitive skills later in life. This decline in cognitive skills is associated with fuzzy thinking, memory loss, and declines in mental processing speed and executive function. Elevated blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the brain, leading to the formation of blood clots or causing bleeding. These events can block blood flow to the brain, resulting in a stroke.
1. Prolonged hypertension can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to impaired function. Hypertension can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys, exacerbating kidney damage.
2. The kidneys rely on a well-regulated blood supply to function properly, and when blood pressure is consistently high, it can lead to inflammation and scarring of the renal arteries and arterioles.
3. Hypertension can reduce the glomerular filtration rate over time, indicating a decline in kidney function. As the damage to kidneys accumulates, it can lead to a gradual decline in kidney function.
4. The kidneys play a vital role in maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Hypertension can disrupt this balance, leading to conditions such as hyperkalemia (elevated potassium levels) and sodium retention.
1. Hypertensive retinopathy is a condition where the blood vessels in the retina are damaged, potentially leading to vision problems or even blindness.
2. Persistent hypertension can damage the blood vessels in the eyes, and increase the risk of blockages in the small arteries and veins of the retina. Retinal artery occlusions can cause sudden vision loss, while retinal vein occlusion may lead to haemorrhages and swelling in the retina.
3. Fatty deposits, known as exudates, may accumulate in the retina due to hypertensive retinopathy. These deposits can interfere with normal vision and contribute to retinal damage.
4. Hypertension may be associated with an increased risk of developing glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that can lead to optic nerve damage and vision loss.
5. METABOLIC HEALTH
1. Hypertension is often associated with insulin resistance, a condition where cells become less responsive to the effects of insulin. Individuals with high blood pressure are more prone to developing diabetes.
2. Hypertension is often associated with abnormalities in lipid metabolism, leading to dyslipidemia. This condition involves imbalances in cholesterol levels, including elevated LDL cholesterol.
3. Hypertension and metabolic dysfunction are associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Inflammatory processes contribute to the development and progression of various metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance and atherosclerosis.
MEASURES TO PREVENT HYPERTENSION
1. Engage in moderate-intense aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week, or 75 minutes per week for vigorous aerobic activity.
2. Regularly check your blood pressure
3. Reduce or manage stress, get good sleep
4. Maintain a healthy weight
5. Eat nutrient-dense diet, reduce sodium intake
6. Limit alcohol intake and tobacco use
7. Take supplements to lower blood pressure (omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium)
8. Stay well hydrated
Early detection and appropriate management can help prevent complications associated with hypertension. Hypertension often develops without noticeable symptoms, hence routine blood pressure monitoring is essential, especially for individuals with risk factors such as family history of hypertension, obesity, or a sedentary lifestyle. If you have concerns about your blood pressure or experience any of the symptoms mentioned, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and management.