How does high blood pressure affect the body?

Increased blood pressure causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which leads to heart disease or stroke and causes direct damage on several major organs.

High blood pressure can affect your body in several ways. Blood pressure can be elevated when your body increases its volume of blood, when your heart pumps more blood through your arteries and when your arteries are constricted. When it comes to primary high blood pressure the cause of these changes is unclear, but for secondary high blood pressure they may be the result of a kidney disorder, hormonal disorder or a tumor in an adrenal gland. Regardless, they are all partly regulated by your kidneys and it is common for kidneys to get damaged as a result of high blood pressure. The same can be said for your heart and your arteries. The harder they have to work the thicker they get and that's not a good thing. Left untreated, secondary high blood pressure could lead to an aneurysm, stroke or heart attack.

When your blood moves through your vessels with too much force, you have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Your heart has to work harder when blood pressure is high, and your risk for heart disease and diabetes goes up. High blood pressure raises your risk for heart attack, stroke, eye problems and kidney disease. High blood pressure is a problem that won't go away without treatment and changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Sameer A. Sayeed, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

High blood pressure causes blood to flow through the body at high pressure which can damage organs such as the kidney, heart, and brain, as well as the arteries that circulate the blood. The heart undergoes changes in its shape and size to be able to pump against the higher pressure which can cause heart failure and abnormal heart pumping and filling function. Bleeding can occur in the brain from high blood pressure causing small blood vessels in the brain to rupture. High blood pressure causes pressure injury to the kidneys leading to kidney failure. High blood pressure damages the delicate walls of the body's blood vessels leading to coronary artery disease and heart attack, cerebrovascular disease leading to stroke, and peripheral vascular disease leading to poor blood circulation to the legs.

Bryce Wylde
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Specialist

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, forces the heart and blood vessels to work harder than normal, making them highly susceptible to injury by increasing blood flow that exerts undue pressure and stress against the walls of the blood vessels. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to an increased risk of serious health conditions, including congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis, brain damage, vision loss and kidney failure among other things.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Blood pressure measures the pressure on your artery walls, so if you have plaque buildup in your arteries, your blood pressure will be high. Hypertension thickens the walls of the heart, leaving them stiff and prone to heart failure. As the heart works harder, blood vessels in the kidneys can be damaged, which can lead to kidney failure. If you are obese, losing 10 pounds will decrease your blood pressure, protecting your heart and kidneys.

Hypertension is associated with a number of serious long-term effects on the body. High blood pressure is a risk factor for the development of heart disease, heart failure, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease including kidney failure and some life-threatening emergencies.

Some of the risk factors for high blood pressure include obesity (defined as a body mass index greater than 30) and hypertension. Several organs can be negatively affected (damaged) by hypertension including the kidneys, eyes, brain and heart. Improving blood flow through means such as weight loss or increased aerobic exercise (ie walking) have been shown to help with hypertension. Additionally, reducing salt and sugar intake, eliminating smoking, reducing alcohol intake and reducing stress are often recommended by doctors.

Unfortunately, hypertension usually has no symptoms and is considered a silent condition.Occasionally, someone with high blood pressure can experience headaches, confusion, nausea and visual disturbance or in extreme rare cases even seizures. High blood pressure affects 50 million Americans, or one in every four adults. Furthermore, more than half of all Americans over age 65 have hypertension.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in disability, a poor quality of life or even a fatal heart attack. There are many complications related to high blood pressure, including artery damage and narrowing, aneurysm, coronary artery disease, heart failure and damage to the brain and kidneys.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.