Published on 9 October, 2021
Did you ever wonder why you have to take your high blood pressure medications day after day despite not experiencing any symptoms? Untreated hypertension can increase the risk of life-threatening conditions such as heart attack and stroke, and should therefore be controlled at all times.
Hypertension is a silent disease
Hypertension is a condition where the blood pressure persists above the normal levels. It is a silent disease – a person may not even be aware of its presence until it is detected during a routine visit to the physician, or a vital organ is affected.
Hypertension affects the arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the different parts of the body
In patients with hypertension, the constant high blood pressure in the arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the different parts of the body, damages their walls. Their wall may thin out in places and may burst open resulting in internal bleeds. In addition, minor damages to the arterial walls may promote the deposition of cholesterol, thereby narrowing the arteries and reducing the blood flow to vital organs. Clots may form within the blood vessels, further obstructing blood flow. The reduced blood flow could be critical to organs such as the heart and the brain, which require a constant flow of blood.
Hypertension affects the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes
The major impact of hypertension, sometimes even life-threatening, is on the heart, the brain, the kidneys and the eyes. The heart may develop abnormal rhythms, heart attack or heart failure. Damage to the brain may result in memory loss and stroke. Damage to the kidneys reduces their capacity to excrete water and salts – their accumulation in the body worsens the hypertension, resulting in a vicious cycle. Vision loss may occur if the eyes are affected.
Hypertension-induced organ damage can be prevented
The organ damage due to hypertension can be prevented by simply keeping the blood pressure under control.
- Those who are not diagnosed with hypertension should undergo routine blood pressure checks to detect it early.
- Once diagnosed, the prescribed treatment should be strictly followed.
- A healthy low-salt diet, regular exercise and stress-reduction techniques should be included in the routine.
- Conditions which could increase the chances of organ damage such as diabetes and high cholesterol should be treated.
- Tests to detect organ damage may be recommended by the physician.
Abegaz TM et al. Target Organ Damage and the Long Term Effect of Nonadherence to Clinical Practice Guidelines in Patients with Hypertension: A Retrospective Cohort Study 2017; 2637051. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2637051
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