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How Would Hypertension Affect Health?

More commonly called high blood pressure, hypertension is when one’s blood pressure, the force of the blood flowing through the blood vessels, is consistently too high. In Singapore, Australia or Europe, one is considered to have hypertension if the reading is 140/90 mmHg or more, whereas in the United States, people with 130/80 mmHg are already considered to be hypertensive, according to their latest revised guidelines.

Certain physical traits and lifestyle choices can put one at a greater risk of getting hypertension, for instance, people who are diabetic, older, overweight or obese, smokers, have high blood cholesterol.

Patients with hypertension are often unaware of their condition because there are usually no obvious signs or symptoms, though occasionally, one may have headaches or giddiness when hypertension is severe. That is why hypertension is sometimes referred to as a silent killer. Uncontrolled hypertension makes one more likely to get not only heart disease and stroke but also other diseases like kidney disease, eye diseases, and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

So how would hypertension affect health? The main reason is that it affects the arteries. Normally, the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body have a smooth inner lining. They are strong and flexible enough to push blood through the body. When one has hypertension, the extra force of the blood can damage the cells on the inside walls of the arteries. If the pressure is not reduced, it can cause tears in the lining causing plaque to build up. Over time, plaques can grow into blockages that narrow or even seal off arteries. If that artery is around the heart, one gets a heart attack. In the brain, it is called a stroke.

Heart is a muscle that requires blood. When it cannot get enough blood, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), chest pain (angina) or heart attack may occur. Hypertension causes the heart to work harder to push blood through the stiff or clogged arteries. An overworked heart can become larger and weaker, leading to a heart attack or heart failure. Data from 2015 released by the Health Promotion Board in Singapore indicated that 74 percent of patients who have had heart attacks had hypertension as a risk factor.

Undoubtedly, hypertension is the leading cause of stroke. When an artery in the brain tears, leaks or gets clogged, it can stop blood from getting to brain cells. This may cause one to have problems with language, vision, movement, or anything else the brain controls. It could be temporary if the blood flow is restored, or the damage may be permanent if the cells die. A lessened blood supply to the brain can also keep one from thinking clearly and remembering, leading to a condition called vascular dementia.

About 1 in 5 people with hypertension also have kidney disease. On the other hand, healthy kidneys play a role in keeping the blood pressure in check, too. When they are damaged, the blood pressure could go up that can cause more kidney trouble, in an ongoing loop. This could lead to kidney failure.

Long-term hypertension can limit blood flow and damage the small blood vessels in the eyes. Fluid may build up under the retina, the part of the eye where images focus. Problems including blurry, distorted, and lost vision may result. One could also lose the sight when the optic nerve does not get enough blood.

Narrow and blocked arteries in the lower part of the body, especially the legs, can cause pain and cramping. This is known as PAD. It can make muscles in the legs and hips sore and tired when one walks or climbs stairs. Sleep apnea can be caused by hypertension. About a third of hypertensive patients have this condition. Hypertension can trigger it or make it worse. The likelihood of getting it is higher with uncontrolled hypertension. Unfortunately, the poor rest that comes from sleep apnea can, in turn, raise the blood pressure.




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