8 Ways Hypertension Can Bring You ‘Tension’

Photo by Yelizaveta Tomashevska from Getty Images

Do you enjoy spy movies? Or ones with a gripping cat-and-mouse chase?

Many of these movies may feature an attempted killing involving a sniper. The sniper strategically waits on a rooftop, aims at their target, and then waits for the optimal moment to fire the shot. Well…beware of a dangerous sniper that may be targeting you right now — hypertension.

The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. It is usually diagnosed if your blood pressure falls between 130/80 and 139/89 mm Hg. If you have hypertension, your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This puts excess strain on the heart muscle, causing it to thicken and enlarge. Hypertension may also cause extensive damage to your blood vessels.

So how can hypertension be as lethal as a sniper?

Having long-term, uncontrolled hypertension can lead to significant health problems and affects many parts of your body. It may be only a matter of time before these problems take a serious toll on your health, just like a potentially deadly sniper shot. These are some hypertension-related problems you should be ‘tensed’ about:

1. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease of the arteries that is caused by the build-up of a substance called plaque. Plaque, which contains the infamous cholesterol, hardens over time and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to other parts of the body. High blood pressure damages the walls of the arteries, making it easier for fatty plaque to get deposited.

2. Ischemic heart disease

You may also know this as coronary artery disease. This long-term heart disease is a further complication of atherosclerosis. When arteries that supply crucial oxygen to the heart muscle get blocked, the cells of the heart muscle may start to die. As a result, the heart cannot function efficiently. This can lead to symptoms like breathlessness, chest pains, and irregular heart beats.

3. Heart failure

When your arteries narrow due to high blood pressure, your heart needs to work much harder to pump blood. This can strain and weaken your heart muscle. Your heart can no longer function effectively to pump enough blood to the other parts of the body. This can lead to severe consequences.

4. Enlarged left heart

This is one instance where having a ‘big heart’ is not a good thing. As your heart needs to work extra hard to pump blood when you have hypertension, the walls of your left lower heart chamber (ventricle) thicken. This can in turn contribute to heart failure.

5. Heart attack

This acute event can be a potentially life-threatening sniper shot. High blood pressure promotes plaque deposition in the walls of the arteries. Sometimes, the plaque can rupture and form a blood clot. This blood clot can completely block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. When the heart is deprived of oxygen and nutrients even for a few seconds, it can cause the cells to die. Heart failure and enlarged left heart can also increase the risk of heart attacks. Heart attacks can result in permanent damage to the heart.

6. Stroke

Stroke is another possibly fatal sniper shot that can be fired by hypertension. High blood pressure can damage and restrict the flow of blood in the vessels supplying the brain. When the brain cells are starved of oxygen and nutrients, it can lead to devastating consequences. Depending on how serious the stroke is, it can result in permanent problems like paralysis, difficulties in talking or eating, and memory loss.

7. Kidney damage

Your kidneys need an adequate blood supply to ensure it can filter out excess fluid and waste from your body. Damage to the blood vessels caused by high blood pressure can hamper the functioning of the kidneys, and can eventually lead to kidney failure. This may necessitate dialysis or a kidney transplant.

8. Eye damage

High blood pressure can affect the small vessels that supply your eyes. This can ultimately lead to bleeding in the eyes, nerve damage, retinal damage, blurred vision, or blindness.

As you can see, the impacts of our sniper, hypertension, can be wide-ranging. Sometimes, the bullet can hit you in places that may not be fatal, but can cause long-term damage (like the eyes or kidney). But other times, hypertension can fire a lethal shot, and there may be no turning back.

Just like how you’d run for your life if you saw a sniper aiming at you, you should run away from the potentially detrimental effects of uncontrolled hypertension. You can take steps to ensure you keep tabs on your blood pressure numbers.

Adhering to your doctor’s prescription plan is vital to keep your blood pressure in check. Following a blood pressure-friendly lifestyle is also of utmost importance. This includes limiting your salt daily intake, exercising regularly, and quitting unhealthy behaviours like smoking and binge-drinking alcohol.

Hypertension is one of the leading causes of premature death globally. So, it’s best to not take a chance when it comes to this deadly, sneaky sniper! Remember, the only person who can keep YOU the healthiest is YOU.

Dr. YOU is a one-stop platform to address the health information needs of health consumers. Our goal is to arm people with the information necessary to make meaningful decisions regarding their health and nudge behaviour change.

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