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Is high blood pressure dangerous?

High blood pressure (or hypertension) affects one in three adults in the United States. It increases their risk of heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke.

Dr. Nassir A. Azimi, MD
Interventional Cardiologist

In brief, yes. High blood pressure above 200 systolic and 100 diastolic can lead to acute complications such as stroke, heart failure or kidney damage. Long-term pressures above 140/85 can cause problems with the heart, the brain, the kidneys or blood vessels.  

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

High blood pressure is dangerous. It can lead to damage to the coronary arteries, leading to coronary artery disease, heart attacks and heart failure. It can also lead to cerebrovascular disease and strokes. High blood pressure can also affect peripheral arteries, leading to inadequate blood flow to the legs, causing gangrene; inadequate blood flow to the kidneys, leading to kidney failure; and rupture of the aorta and other major vessels, leading to death.

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Yes, high blood pressure is a condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, renal failure and other health problems.

If you have high blood pressure, or hypertension, you may not experience any symptoms. That does not mean that high blood pressure is not dangerous. If your blood pressure reading is consistently above 120/80 mmHg, you should work with your doctor to lower it through medication, diet, exercise and stress reduction. When you have high blood pressure, your heart is working extra hard. This can cause the heart muscle to grow very thick. Over time, the heart cannot continue to work so hard and it will begin to fail, or weaken.

High blood pressure is when blood pushes against your artery walls with too much force. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart to the rest of your body. Hypertension can damage the walls of the arteries and contribute to cardiovascular diseases that lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. The damage to your cardiovascular system takes places silently over years and decades, so it is important to monitor your blood pressure and seek early treatment if you have high blood pressure.

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

If your blood pressure stays high, over time your risk of heart attack and other problems caused by atherosclerosis are greatly increased. High blood pressure can cause your heart to enlarge and weaken, resulting in heart failure. With heart failure, your heart can no longer pump adequate blood throughout your body. 

Hypertension can also increase the chance of abnormal bulges or balloons in the artery walls called aneurysms. Arteries are blood vessels that carry the blood from your heart to different parts of your body. Aneurysms commonly appear in the main artery, the one that carries the blood from the heart to the body. Also, these abnormal bulges can occur in the arteries of the brain, legs, intestines and spleen. Aneurysms can burst and result in death.

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can be life-threatening because it causes two conditions that make the heart work harder:

  • It causes the artery walls to thicken, which reduces blood flow.
  • It makes the inside of the arteries rough, which contributes to the formation of mounds of fat and debris called plaque and also reduces the space available for blood to circulate.

Over time, a heart that works strenuously to pump blood becomes enlarged. This can cause the heart and blood vessels to become damaged, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure has become far too common, with too few people taking steps to fix it. In this video, I will talk about what it is, why it's dangerous and how to bring it back to normal.

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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.