Effects of High Blood Pressure on the Body

Blood pressure is the pressure produced when your heart pumps blood into the arteries of the body. As the heart beats, the pressure rises to a maximum level 120 mmHg [the systolic blood pressure, and as it relaxes, it falls to a minimum level 80 mmhg [diastolic blood pressure].

The great arteries of the body behave somewhat like the balloon. They are stretched when the heart contracts, and by 'springing back' after the heartbeat, they cause the blood to remain under pressure. The blood is the only medium, which carries oxygen and all other nutrients to all parts of the body. Hence the steady flow of blood is imperative for all functions of the cell and its survival.

As we all must know chronic high blood pressure can lead to an enlarged heart, kidney failure, brain or neurological damage, and changes in the retina at the back of the eyes. Examination of the eyes in patients with severe hypertension will show narrowing of the small arteries, small hemorrhages in the retina, and swelling of the eye nerve. From the amount of damage, the physician can assess the severity of the hypertension. People with high blood pressure have an increased stiffness, in the peripheral arteries throughout the tissues of the body.

This increased resistance causes the heart muscle to work harder to pump the blood through these blood vessels. The increased workload can put a strain on the heart, which can lead to heart abnormalities that are usually seen as enlarged heart muscle. Enlargement of the heart can be evaluated by chest x-ray, electrocardiogram, and most accurately by echocardiography. Echocardiography is useful in determining the thickness of the left side, the main pumping side of the heart. Heart enlargement may be a forerunner of heart failure, coronary artery disease, and abnormal heart rate or rhythms called as cardiac arrhythmias. Proper treatment of the high blood pressure and its complications can reverse some of these heart abnormalities.

Blood and urine tests may be helpful in detecting kidney abnormalities in people with high blood pressure. The kidney damage can be the cause or the result of hypertension. Measuring the serum creatinine in a blood test can tell us how well the kidneys are functioning. An abnormal i.e. elevated, level of serum creatinine indicates damage to the kidney. In addition, the presence of protein in the urine known as proteinuria may reflect chronic kidney damage from hypertension, even if the kidney function as represented by the blood creatinine level is normal.

The protein in the urine alone signals the risk of deterioration in kidney function if the blood pressure is not controlled. Even small amounts of protein better known as microalbuminuria may be a signal of impending kidney failure and other vascular complications from uncontrolled hypertension. African- American patients with badly controlled hypertension are at a higher risk than Caucasians for most end-organ damage and particularly kidney damage. Uncontrolled hypertension can cause strokes, which can lead to brain or neurological damage. The strokes are due to a hemorrhage or a blood clot called as thrombosis of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.

The patient's symptoms and signs in general diagnosed on physical examination are evaluated to assess the neurological damage. A stroke can cause weakness, tingling, or paralysis of the arms or legs and difficulties with speech or vision. Multiple small strokes can lead to dementia i.e. impaired intellectual capacity. The best prevention for this complication of hypertension is control of the blood pressure. Recent studies have also suggested the angiotensin receptor blocking drugs may offer an additional protective effect against strokes in addition to the control of blood pressure.

Uncomplicated high blood pressure usually occurs without any symptoms. The disease can progress silently without symptoms to fatal complications heart attacks or strokes. The uncomplicated hypertension may be present and remain unnoticed for many years, or even decades. Some people with uncomplicated hypertension, experience symptoms such as headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, and blurred vision.

The presence of symptoms can be a good thing in that they can make people to consult a physician for treatment. Generally the people visit the doctor only after significant damage to the end organs. In many cases, a person is brought to the doctor or an emergency room with a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or impaired vision. Greater public awareness and frequent blood pressure screening may help to identify patients with undiagnosed high blood pressure before significant complications have developed.





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