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Hypertension: the silent killer

Tuesday, August 8th 2017. | Hypertension

 

Hypertension or high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms as such. That is why it often remains undetected for years in spite of being present in the body. Often a chance check of one’s blood pressure reveals the disease. Hypertension quietly plays havoc with the body if left untreated.

Hypertension Silent Killer
Let us take a look at how high blood pressure can damage our bodies if not adequately treated.

Damage to your arteries: The inner lining of the arteries are normally smooth and supple so that blood can flow freely through them. High blood pressure damages this inner lining causing fats to stick to them and thus narrowing the arteries. Arteries become less elastic restricting free flow of blood to the organs and other parts of the body. It is mainly because of the damage to the arteries that damage to organs occurs.

Aneurysms or small bulges from the arteries can form. These can rupture and cause life threatening internal bleeding. They are most commonly formed in the main artery of the body, the aorta and also in the arteries of the kidneys.

 

Coronary artery disease. The narrowing of the arteries of the heart restrict blood flow to heart muscles causing angina, heart attack or irregular rhythms of the heart.

Enlarged heart. Because the left ventricle of the heart has to pump against pressure it becomes hypertrophied, stiff and weak. This raises the likelihood of congestive failure of the heart, heart attack and sudden cardiac death.

Damage to the brain. Again narrowing of arteries supplying the brain can cause transient ischaemic attacks (less blood supply to certain parts of the brain) or a full blown stroke causing paralysis or other serious damage to the brain because of blockage or bleeding.

Dementia and mild cognitive impairment causing problems with thinking, speaking, reasoning, memory, vision and movement can occur because of damaged arteries. The dementia is called vascular dementia because it is caused by narrow arteries which have reduced the blood flow to the brain.

Nephropathy or damage to the kidneys can occur. Kidney failure is a very common consequence of high blood pressure as both arteries entering and leaving the kidneys are affected. It is mainly the glomeruli of the kidney which are affected causing glomeruli-nephritis initially leading to failure.

Damage to the eyes. High blood pressure can damage the delicate vessels supplying blood to the retina, causing retinopathy. This can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision and blindness. The risk is greater if diabetes is also present. Choroidopathy with distorted vision or in some cases scarring impairs vision because of fluid buildup under the retina. Optic neuropathy or damage to the optic nerve can occur leading to blindness.

Sexual dysfunction. Decreased blood flow to the penis makes it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. In women, there may be decreased libido, vaginal dryness and difficulty in achieving an orgasm because of decreased blood flow to the vagina.

High blood pressure can also lead to :

Bone loss because of greater elimination of calcium in the urine. This leads to osteoporosis especially in older women and can lead to fractures.Hypertension

Obstructive sleep apnea and snoring can deprive one of sleep as well as increase the risk of oxygen deprivation during sleep. High blood pressure is directly linked to both snoring and sleep apnea.

Sometimes the blood pressure can rise suddenly and severely creating an emergency as it can cause stroke, severe cognitive impairment, heart attack, acute kidney failure, aortic dissection and pulmonary oedema.

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