High blood pressure is known as the Silent Killer. Also called hypertension, the dangers of high blood pressure are numerous. One of the greatest dangers is being left untreated for many years with no signs or symptoms as it gradually does irreparable damage to the body. A great number of Americans can control their blood pressure using no medication if they simply reduce their salt intake. However, combined with other factors, such as obesity or smoking, high blood pressure is a risk indicator of more serious conditions.
High blood pressure damages the arteries over time. The high pressure of the blood flow damages arteries that are necessary for transporting oxygen and other nutrients to the cells of the body. One type of damage high blood pressure causes is called arteriosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. This leads to heart problems, kidney problems, peripheral arterial disease, eye damage and aneurysm.
The heart is in danger due to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to coronary artery disease, an enlarged left heart and even heart failure. The pressure on the heart to pump the blood, along with the damage that hardened arteries cause, stresses the heart over time causing serious injury and even death.
Hypertension also leads to brain damage. Every cell in the body needs the nutrients supplied by the blood through the arteries and veins of the body. The brain is susceptible to the effects of high blood pressure, loosing vital oxygen and other nutrients supplied by the blood. Strokes, impaired mental function and dementia can all be caused by hypertension.
Kidneys need a healthy blood supply in order to rid the body of extra fluid and other waste products. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys, causing scarring and eventual kidney failure. Diabetes is another stress to the kidneys, and patients with diabetes and high blood pressure have a very high risk of permanent kidney damage.
The dangers of high blood pressure and diabetes are particularly high for overweight people and smokers. Losing weight and quitting smoking are the two best things you can do for your health. A healthy balanced diet, good regular exercise, counseling, hypnosis and group therapy are helpful for overweight patients and smokers who need to adopt better lifestyles for good health.
High blood pressure can also lead to damage of the eyes. Excessive blood pressure puts stress on the delicate vessels of the eye. It also leads to the buildup of fluid behind the retina and damage to the nerves in the eyes. Diabetes also increases the risk of eye problems in patients with high blood pressure.
Both men and women can experience mild or severe sexual dysfunction due to high blood pressure. The pressure damages delicate veins and vessels necessary to maintain an erection or experience sustained sexual arousal. Often blamed on age, menopause or other factors, high blood pressure silently destroys the sex lives of many couples who go undiagnosed.
High blood pressure raises the level of calcium in urine. As the calcium is washed out of the body, bone loss occurs. This leads to osteoporosis and broken bones. Broken bones also increase the probability of developing arthritis.
About half the people who have high blood pressure also have trouble sleeping. The condition is called obstructive sleep apnea, and one of the signs is severe snoring. The loss of sleep due to sleep apnea in turn raises the blood pressure even higher.
High blood pressure can also lead to a stroke. The amount of damage caused by a stroke depends on how large it was and where it occurred in the brain; but paralysis, trouble speaking, loss of sensation and even death can result from a stroke. People who have had a stroke are at an increased risk of having another one.
Hypertension can also cause seizures in pregnant women. This is called preeclampsia or eclampsia. These conditions are serious, and are potentially fatal to both the woman and the unborn child.
Diagnosing and treating high blood pressure early is critical for preventing these conditions. If diagnosed, first, cut back on your salt intake. This lowers blood pressure automatically, and for many patients no other treatment is necessary. Second, reduce the amount of stress in your life. Learn to manage stress through counseling, meditation, exercise, breathing exercises or hypnosis. Medication is available to treat severe high blood pressure that is unresponsive to diet, exercise and quitting smoking.