When our blood travels through the vessels with more force than is considered healthy, it is called high blood pressure or Hypertension. If the blood pressure is high, it can damage arteries and blood vessel walls over a period of time. This condition if it accelerates further can lead to multiple diseases as it leads to damage to different organs and eventually may result in organ failure and cardiovascular death and disability.
Organs like heart, kidney, brain and arterial blood vessels are the primary targets of hypertensive damage. Further, if the condition is left uncontrolled, eyes, bones and other organs also get affected. Dr Snehil Mishra, Consultant Interventional Cardiology at Hinduja Hospital, Khar highlights how hypertension affects different organs.
Damage to heart
With hypertension causing stiffness of the arteries, the heart functions hard to pump blood and the extra work can lead to an enlarged left ventricle, which pumps blood to the body. This increased burden on the heart, it continues for a long time, increases the chances of having a heart attack.
Similarly, when the heart becomes too weak or damaged due to the high blood pressure or due to the constant hard work of pumping blood in the stiff arteries, it fails to pump blood adequately through the body. This condition leads to heart failure.
In a damaged artery, high blood pressure can also lead to the formation of a bulge. This is known as an aneurysm. The bulge starts becoming larger over time and often isn’t diagnosed until it causes pain when it presses another area of the body or is diagnosed when it finally bursts. A ruptured aneurysm, which can happen anywhere in the body, can be fatal if it’s specifically in one of your major arteries.
Damage to brain
High blood pressure is a leading cause of a stroke as well. When an artery in our brain tears, leaks, or gets clogged, it can stop blood from reaching the brain cells. Depending on what part of your brain loses blood and what function it plays, one can have problems with language, vision, movement, or anything else the brain controls. The condition could be temporary if the blood flow is restored, or the damage may be permanent if the cells die.
Narrowed blood supply to the brain due to hypertension can also lead to issues with thinking clearly and remembering. It can cause a condition called vascular dementia.
Damage to kidney
Studies have proven that about 1 in 5 people with high blood pressure also have kidney disease. The kidneys rely on a network of tiny blood vessels to bring them oxygen and nutrients and to filter waste from the body. When the vessels get clogged, the kidneys won’t be able to function effectively.
Healthy kidneys play a role in keeping the blood pressure in check too. So, if the kidneys are damaged, the blood pressure could go up which in turn causes kidney issues. In the long run, such a condition can also lead to kidney failure.
Damage to eyes
If a hypertension patient suffers bleeding in the eye or blurred vision, it is time to get it checked. There are high chances that the high blood pressure would have damaged the vessels supplying the blood to the retina, thus causing retinopathy. In the long run, such condition can also lead to complete loss of vision.
Damage to other organs
High blood pressure can increase the amount of calcium passed through the urine. This excessive elimination of calcium may lead to loss of bone density (osteoporosis), which in turn can lead to increased risk of bone fractures. The risk is especially increased in older women.
Obstructive sleep apnea — a condition in which the throat muscles relax causing loud snoring loudly — occurs in more than half of those with high blood pressure. It is believed that high blood pressure itself may help trigger sleep apnea. Also, sleep deprivation resulting from sleep apnea can lead to increased blood pressure.
During arousal, sexual organs use extra blood flow. The high blood pressure causes blockages to the blood vessels which leads to penis or vagina, thus leading to sexual dysfunction.
Men may have a hard time getting and maintaining an erection and women might experience:
- Decreased arousal
- Vaginal dryness
- Trouble having an orgasm