The Dangers of Hypertension

According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million Americans have hypertension (high blood pressure), and many don’t even realize it. Only about 25% of people with hypertension have their condition under control.

Because it’s so common, you might think “a little” hypertension is nothing to worry about. But even mild hypertension can be deadly: About a half-million Americans die from hypertension-related causes each year.

With practices in Clarksburg and Frederick, Maryland, Primary Care Associates helps women and men learn how to manage hypertension, tailoring every treatment plan to the individual’s needs. Here’s why managing your hypertension is so critically important for your health — and your life.

How hypertension happens

High blood pressure is pretty much just what it sounds like: The pressure of your blood inside your blood vessels is higher than normal. That means that with every beat of your heart, your organs and tissues are having blood delivered at levels much higher than normal, and over time, that can lead to a lot of damage.

Atherosclerosis (sometimes called “hardening: of the arteries) is a primary cause of hypertension. In this condition, sticky plaque builds up along the walls of your arteries, making the interior diameter a lot narrower than normal. That means that as blood flows through the arteries, the pressure inside the arteries and against the artery walls is naturally higher.

Other causes and risk factors for hypertension include:

Hypertension also becomes more common with age, and it’s also more common among people with a family history of high blood pressure. 

Hypertension and your body

Your entire body is “fed” by blood vessels, which is why hypertension can have widespread effects on your body and your health. If you have hypertension, it increases your risk for a host of serious medical problems.

Heart attack

Hypertension is a significant contributor to heart attacks, weakening the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. 

Stroke

Hypertension increases the risk of clogged arteries in your brain, and it can also increase the risk of vessel bursting due to elevated pressures.

Heart failure

Untreated hypertension causes the heart to work a lot harder than normal. Over time, that can lead to enlargement of the heart, making the heart a lot less effective in pumping blood to the rest of the body.

Vision problems

Increased blood pressure can damage the tiny vessels in your eyes, leading to vision loss over time.

Kidney disease

Your kidneys filter wastes from your blood, eliminating those waste products through urination. High blood pressure can damage the arteries that supply the kidneys with blood, decreasing their ability to filter properly.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Hypertension can cause narrowing in the peripheral arteries. The arteries in your torso, head, arms, and legs decrease blood flow in these areas as well.

Erectile dysfunction (ED)

Hypertension is a common cause of erectile dysfunction, especially in older men. That’s because getting and maintaining an erection depends on adequate and normal blood flow to the penis. High blood pressure interferes with that process, making ED a lot more likely.

Treating hypertension

The problem with diagnosing hypertension is that it rarely causes symptoms independently, which means many people may not realize they have high blood pressure until something serious happens. Because it causes no (or very few) symptoms early on, hypertension is frequently referred to in medical circles as the “silent killer.”

Having regular physical exams is one of the best ways to spot high blood pressure. In a few cases, high blood pressure may cause symptoms like:

If you’re diagnosed with hypertension, your treatment will depend on your medical history, your lifestyle, and other factors, and might include:

The team at Primary Care Associates customizes every treatment plan to help each patient learn the best way to manage their hypertension and avoid serious problems. If you have high blood pressure, call the office or book an appointment online to learn how to help you keep it under control.

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