Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death all over the world. Out of these, the biggest risk factor is high blood pressure or hypertension. Hypertension occurs when your blood flows through the blood vessels with a more intense force than is needed. Due to this, the artery and blood vessel walls get damaged over time.
If the condition is left unmanaged and untreated, it can lead to major setbacks, even death. This common condition has dangerous effects not only on the heart but also on various parts of the body.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers i.e., systolic and diastolic pressures.
Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure of arteries when the heart beats, whereas diastolic pressure measures the pressure of arteries when the heart rests between beats.
A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80mmHg. No matter what your age, you should always take steps to keep your blood pressure levels within the normal range.
Generally, hypertension is asymptomatic until you begin to experience severe complications. That is why it is always advised to know your blood pressure numbers at regular intervals.
Distinct Parts of the body affected by hypertension
As high blood pressure blocks the arteries, it reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to various parts of the body including the brain. This causes memory loss as well as issues related to thinking. The damage the high BP does to the heart arteries can also happen to the arteries in the brain. When part of the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and blood, the cells of the brain may start to perish, resulting in neurological symptoms including visual disturbance, headache, nausea, and seizures.
When your brain arteries get excessively blocked, it leads to a stroke.
Impact on the eyes
The tiny blood vessels in your eyes get affected by high blood pressure as hypertension restricts the blood flow and oxygen in these arteries. This blockage can cause optic nerve damage and retinopathy. Retinopathy is a condition in which the blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue of the retina, present at the back of your eyes, are damaged. Both these conditions, if not managed correctly, can lead to bleeding in the eyes, blurry vision, and blindness.
High BP damage might look small in initial phases but it builds over time. Our circulatory system includes four major components namely, the heart, arteries, veins, and blood. Hypertension impacts the circulatory system by damaging the arteries, leading them to become less elastic, and minimising the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.
This restricted flow of blood pushes blood vessels to work harder and more efficiently, causing damage to the tissue or organ which in turn leads to heart diseases.
Like the arteries in the brain and heart, the lung arteries can also be damaged and blocked due to high BP. When the blood flow is restricted to the lungs, it causes pulmonary embolism. It is a condition in which a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs happens. The condition is very severe and requires immediate medical attention to prevent complications.
This blockage of blood flow to the lungs also causes an aneurysm. An aneurysm is a condition where an abnormal bulge in the blood vessels occurs.
Recent studies have observed that sleep apnea (a sleeping disorder in which a person snores and breathes loudly during a night’s sleep) is linked to high blood pressure since a large number of individuals who are diagnosed with sleep apnea have high blood pressure history.
Adverse effects on the kidney
Kidneys are one of the most essential organs of the body that have a significant role in removing toxins, wastes, acid, and extra fluid from the body in order to maintain the perfect balance of water, salts, and minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and other substances in your blood. High blood pressure damages the large blood vessels of the kidneys and small blood vessels within the kidneys in many ways. When blood flow and oxygen are blocked, it prevents kidneys from doing their role efficiently and thus kidney diseases occur.
Effects on reproductive organs
Erectile dysfunction or ED is the most common cause of male infertility which can be greatly affected by hypertension. Like other body parts, when limited blood is flowing to the penis due to high BP, it causes improper functioning of the male reproductive organ and thus impotence happens where a man is not able to achieve an erection or keep it firm long enough for sexual intercourse.
Similar to men, women can also get affected and may experience sexual dysfunction due to hypertension. The reduced blood flow to the vagina can lead to low libido levels, vaginal dryness, and even difficulty achieving orgasm.
Hypertension is very common nowadays and can affect people of all ages. As high blood pressure causes damage slowly and symptoms will start to appear when it reaches a serious stage, it is important to practice healthy habits, indulge in physical exercises, and eat a diet low in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.
In addition to these, people should also keep an eye on their healthy blood pressure levels and get them checked regularly.
Hypertension is not something that can not be treated. If you manage it well and are aware of your healthy systolic and diastolic pressure range, it is helpful for you as well as your doctor to control the damage it can cause to your body.
Avoid these associated complications with high BP just by opting for a regular full body checkup that will make you aware of your body vitals and help you in keeping them under control by taking necessary precautions on time.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Q1. What effect does hypertension have on the body?
Hypertension blocks the blood and oxygen flow to the small and larger blood vessels within the body, thereby affecting different parts of the body.
Q2. How does hypertension affect the nervous system?
High blood pressure restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain which in turn affects the brain and causes cognitive impairment.
Q3. What three things can hypertension cause?
Hypertension can cause heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, kidney problems, eye issues, and many more health problems.
Q4. What is the biggest risk for hypertension?
Unhealthy diets including excessive salt consumption, oily and trans fat foods, and low intake of fruits and vegetables, are major risk factors for hypertension.
Q5. How long can you live with high blood pressure?
There is no specific number for your life span, but studies have shown that while someone may not live as long as someone who does not have hypertension, living longer is possible if the blood pressure is managed well.
Written by: Anjali Dharra