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Dangerous Side Effects of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/18/2011

High blood pressure that is not being controlled by medication and/or healthy lifestyle changes can be very dangerous. What are the possible side effects of high blood pressure?

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    Why High Blood Pressure Is Dangerous

    Blood pressure is the measure of the pressure used by the heart to push oxygenated blood through the arteries and veins. Blood must constantly flow through the entire body to carry both oxygen and nutrients to all organs. When blood pressure is high and the heart is using excess force to pump blood to organs, a number of problems can arise. Over time this can result in very serious and even dangerous side effects of high blood pressure as the blood vessels become damaged and organs do not receive enough oxygenated blood. What are these potential problems?

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    Damage to Vessels and the Heart

    The most obvious threat of uncontrolled high blood pressure is damage to the blood vessels. The more forceful blood flow can cause vessels to stretch and weaken. This can increase the risk of a ruptured blood vessel — both strokes and aneurysms are caused by a blood vessel rupture.

    The pressure and subsequent stretching can also lead to actual damage to the blood vessel walls. Tiny tears can form, prompting scar tissue to form. This disturbed area of scar tissue and injury can act like a net and catch waste products that are flowing through the blood, such as cholesterol, leading to cholesterol plaque build-up, and hardened, narrowing arteries. This plaque build-up greatly increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Narrowed arteries can more easily become blocked by a blood clot or other debris. The more inhibited blood flow also forces the heart to pump harder, which means higher blood pressure, more blood vessel damage and weakening, and a continued increasing risk of serious heart problems.

    Damage to the valves can also eventually cause damage to the heart. Stretched, hardened, narrowed arteries and vessels instead of elastic vessels and free-flowing blood puts an increased workload on the heart. Heart muscles and valves are susceptible to damage over time and heart failure becomes a real possibility.

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    Damage to Other Organs

    The increasingly inhibited and damagingly forceful blood flow that is characteristic of uncontrolled high blood pressure can also affect other organs of the body such as the kidneys, brain and eyes. If the arteries or small blood vessels that lead into the kidneys are damaged then this organ cannot function properly. The kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from the blood and eventually help eliminate waste from the body through the urine. When the waste and fluids are not filtered out properly, but are instead left to accumulate due to damaged blood vessels, it is possible for kidney failure to occur. Having high blood pressure and not treating it can leave you requiring a kidney transplant or being dependent on dialysis.

    Blocked blood flow to the brain due to damaged arteries can cause memory problems and cognitive impairment, dementia or a stroke. Having high blood pressure in middle age increases the risk of developing dementia in old age. Just like the heart and all other organs, the brain is dependent on a constant flow of new nutrient and oxygen-rich blood.

    High blood pressure can even have a negative effects on the eyes. Problems such as bleeding in the eye, distorted vision and vision loss can occur when the blood vessels to the eyes and optic nerve are damaged.

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    Control Your Blood Pressure

    Exercise Lowers Your Risk If you have high blood pressure it is so important to take measures to manage it. If you do not know your blood pressure be sure to find out what it is at your next doctor's appointment and talk to your doctor about ways to manage this condition. The side effects of high blood pressure can be very serious and as the entire body is dependent on good circulatory health, all systems of the body can be affected. Nourishing, oxygenated blood allows organs to function properly. High blood pressure, damaged vessels and inhibited blood flow can lead to impaired organ functioning and irreversible changes. Eat a healthy, high-fiber and low-fat diet, drink plenty of water, go for a thirty minute walk each day, quit smoking and routinely see your doctor to make sure your blood pressure is at a healthy level and under control.

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    References

    American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/What-is-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301759_Article.jsp

    Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00062

    photo by Raquel Baranow