High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition where the force of the blood against the artery walls is high enough to lead to health risks and more. High blood pressure to unhealthy levels can increase the risks of heart diseases, among other complications. Measurement of blood pressure takes into account how much blood is passing through the vessels and the resistance that the blood meets while the heart is pumping. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower the arteries are, the higher the blood pressure. The blood pressure reading is done in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). There are two numbers where the top number represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, and the lower number measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats. (Holland, 2020)
Risk factors for high blood pressure
Certain diseases, lifestyle choices, race, genetic history, age and other factors can make you more susceptible to high blood pressure.
•Age: The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. For men, high blood pressure becomes common around age 64 and for women, it is common after the age of 65. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
•Using Tobacco & Too Much Alcohol: While smoking or chewing tobacco can temporarily increase your blood pressure, long term tobacco consumption can damage artery walls. Secondhand smoke and heavy drinking can increase the risk of heart disease. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
•Dietary Issues: Too much salt in your diet can lead to the retention of fluid and too little potassium can lead to the building up of sodium in your body, which can lead to high blood pressure.
•Stress: High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure.
•Physical Activity: An inactive lifestyle leads to higher heart rates which increase the force on the arteries. It can also lead to being overweight, which is also a risk factor.
•Certain Chronic Conditions: Certain diseases and chronic conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure.
(Mayo Clinic, 2021)
Complications and damage
High blood pressure can lead to various complications. The higher the blood pressure, the more damage is caused if left uncontrolled. Some of these complications are:
•Arterial Aneurysm: The constant pressure of blood moving through the weakened arteries can cause a section of the wall to enlarge and form an aneurysm or bulge, which can potentially rupture and cause internal bleeding. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
•Heart Failure: High blood pressure can eventually weaken the heart muscles from the strain. Damage caused by heart attacks can add to this and over time, your overwhelmed heart might fail. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
•Brain Stroke: High blood pressure can cause damage to the brain as it may lead to narrow, ruptured or damaged blood vessels. It can also cause blood clots in the brain which might lead to a stroke. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
•Dementia and Memory Loss: Blocked and narrow arteries can reduce the blood flow to the brain, causing memory loss and affect your ability to think, understand and remember. Brain strokes can also lead to vascular dementia. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
•Kidney Failure: One of the most common reasons for kidney failure is high blood pressure. For the filtering of fluids, healthy blood vessels are required. High blood pressure leads to damaged blood vessels, which do not filter effectively, leading to the accumulation of waste. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
•Damage to Eyes: High blood pressure can damage the vessels that supply blood to the eyes. It can cause damage to the retina which can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision and complete loss of vision.
To maintain your blood pressure levels, a healthy heart diet is a must. Include vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains in your diet in moderation. Lead a more active and clean eating lifestyle to avoid obesity and related complications and ensure that routine checkups with the doctor are a part of your life. (Holland, 2020) Doctors recommend getting your blood pressure checked at least every two years, starting at age 18. At 40 years and above, or if you have a high risk of high blood pressure between 18 to 39 years of age, ask your doctor to read your blood pressure at least once a year. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)