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High Blood Pressure - disease information

Long Term Effects and Complications

Most complications from high blood pressure relate to the circulatory system, as a result of the added strain to your heart and blood vessels. In the long term, the strain on your heart and blood vessels can affect other major organs too, which can lead to potentially life-threatening complications.1 For this reason, it’s important to keep blood pressure at manageable levels, especially if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension.

The most common complications arising from high blood pressure include:

  • Atherosclerosis: By placing added stress on the blood vessels, hypertension can result in a build up of plaque (cellular waste products, such as cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium, and fibrin) on the inside walls of the blood vessels. This can result in a condition known as atherosclerosis.2 In these cases, the narrowed arteries limit or block the flow of blood to the heart muscle which deprives your heart of oxygen. This is a serious condition which, if left untreated, can lead to a heart attack or stroke.2
  • Stroke or Heart Attack: If an atheroschlerotic plaque breaks off inside the artery, or the blood vessel ruptures, a blood clot can form within the artery. If this blocks blood flow to the brain it can lead to a stroke. If it blocks blood flow to the heart it can result in a heart attack.2
  • Aneurysm: This is when the blood vessels have been weakened to such an extent that part of the blood vessel wall ‘balloons’ or bulges. The most common locations for an aneurysm include the main artery that carries blood from the heart, arteries in the brain, legs, intestines, and the arteries leading to the spleen.
  • Kidney disease

    High blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in your kidneys, which can affect their ability to excrete waste properly.2 This can cause a number of symptoms, including:

    • Tiredness2
    • Water retention, leading to swollen ankles, feet, or hands2
    • Shortness of breath2
    • Blood and/or protein in your urine2
    • An increased urge to urinate, especially at night2
    • Itchy skin2
  • Vascular dementia: High blood pressure can cause the blood vessels that supply your brain with blood to narrow or become damaged. If the brain is not supplied with enough oxygen due to stroke, cells in the brain may be damaged causing adverse effects on a person’s memory, thinking, or language skills. This condition is called vascular dementia.1
  • Eye Disease: Hypertension can damage the capillaries (small blood vessels) in the retina, which can lead to a deprivation of oxygen to the eye tissue resulting in eye disease.1

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Last Updated 27/11/2013 15:22:48