Why is high blood pressure a health risk?

We’ve all heard that high blood pressure is something that can be a threat to our health. Did you know that uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to more than heart disease.

We’ve all heard that high blood pressure is something that can be a threat to our health. Below I explain why exactly we need to manage blood pressure and how uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to more than heart disease.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition where the pressure of the blood against your blood vessels is consistently too high. High blood pressure can range from mild to severe. Extremely high blood pressure can be sign of a cardiac event such as heart attack. Below is a chart of the latest blood pressure categories in Canada.

Taken from Heart and Stroke as of June 2022. Note- for those with diabetes, the high-risk numbers are 130/80mmHg.

You will see two numbers on a blood pressure reading, systolic and diastolic. The top number is the systolic pressure, and this represents the maximum pressure the heart exerts while pumping blood. The diastolic pressure is represented by the bottom number, and this is the pressure of the blood in the arteries between heart beats while the heart relaxes. A blood pressure between 90/60 to 120/80 mmHg is classified as a healthy blood pressure reading in adults.

High blood pressure makes the heart less efficient and damages blood vessels

Although you cannot often feel any symptoms of high blood pressure until it is very high, damage occurs silently in the body. The increased pressure causes the heart to work harder to deliver the same amount of blood, decreasing the efficiency of the heart. With a high pressure of blood consistently ejected from the heart, the blood vessels that receive the blood also become damaged. Damaged blood vessels increase the risk of something called atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in arteries). Read more about atherosclerosis HERE.

Complications of untreated high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a well-known risk factor for both heart attack and stroke. This is because of the damage to the blood vessels which can then become blocked, preventing blood flow to the heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke).

Heart failure can also result from long term high blood pressure. Due to the increased workload, the heart enlarges but efficiency declines, leading to a decrease in blood pumped out of the heart to the body. This can lead to fatigue, fluid retention, dizziness, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeat.

Angina, or pain in the chest, can occur after damage to the heart from high blood pressure.

Peripheral artery disease (narrowing of arteries in the periphery) can result from high blood pressure due to the damage to blood vessels and subsequent atherosclerosis in the vessels.

Vascular dementia is caused by a reduction in blood flow to the brain which results in damage to brain cells. High blood pressure can damage the vessels leading to, and in the brain, increasing risk for vascular dementia

Kidney damage, erectile dysfunction, and vision loss can all occur in individuals with hypertension.  In certain areas of the body, tiny blood vessels are delicate and even a small increase in blood pressure over time will begin to cause damage.

When is the last time you had your blood pressure checked?  

Knowing your blood pressure is the first step in preventing high blood pressure and the complications over time. Blood pressure tends to increase with age, so even if you have had your blood pressure checked in the past, it is important to have this checked regularly. They key is to lower high blood pressure before damage is done to the heart and vessel walls.

If you do not have a blood pressure cuff at home, ask your healthcare provider to take a blood pressure reading next time you’re there or go into a drug store to use the blood pressure cuff.

If you are looking for ways to naturally decrease blood pressure, whether you are medicated or not, let’s chat! There are several ways to tackle high blood pressure.

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