High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a widespread condition among UK adults. In fact, over a quarter of us will suffer from this health condition at some point in our lives. But this
commonality should be no cause for comfort. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to a range of serious and potentially fatal health risks.
It’s particularly concerning because in most cases high blood pressure doesn’t have any
obvious warning signs. You can live with high blood pressure for years and be totally unaware of it. This is a seriously troubling issue, because the longer you have the condition, the more damage your body will sustain as a result.
Blood pressure is measured in two ways:
● Systolic pressure, the pressure placed on your artery walls when your heart beats.
● Diastolic pressure, the pressure placed on your artery walls between heart beats.
These are typically represented by numbers – systolic being the higher number, and diastolic being the lower number. There is a little leeway between people when it comes to a healthy baseline blood pressure, but generally speaking, anything above 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) is considered higher than the ideal. 140/90mmHg and beyond represents high blood pressure and therefore carries a risk of serious health complications down the line.
So what exactly can happen if high blood pressure is left untreated? Let’s take a look at some of the more worrying potentialities.
1) Artery Damage
Increased blood pressure naturally places a greater strain on the arteries. Over time, this can actually begin to damage the cells within the artery lining. This compromises artery elasticity, which makes it easier for fatty material, known as atheroma, to cause clogs.
This eventually results in a reduced blood flow throughout the body, which over time causes an array of issues for multiple vital organs. In some cases, damaged arteries can lead to a bulge or swelling within a blood vessel – known as an aneurysm – which can potentially rupture and cause seriously dangerous internal bleeding.
Once your blood flow has been compromised by high blood pressure, a variety of other risks naturally follow. Such as…
2) Heart Damage
Obviously, blood flow is integral to the functional purpose of the heart. So when that blood flow is disrupted due to artery damage, serious consequences can result.
For example, angina is a form of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles. Conditions such as angina or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can be symptoms of coronary heart disease – which is, unfortunately, one of the major causes of death worldwide. It’s the leading cause of medical emergencies such as heart attacks, and life-threatening conditions such as acute or chronic heart failure. The risk of developing coronary heart disease is significantly increased by having high blood pressure, in addition to habits such as smoking and genetic influences such as high lipoprotein.
Obviously, anything that can negatively affect the health of your heart is clearly something to be concerned about. But it turns out that the heart is just one of the vital organs that high blood pressure can put at risk.
3) Brain Damage
Vital to any kind of conscious life, our brain is our most complex and defining organ. Yet for all its complexity, its continued existence depends on a simple fact: it requires a steady blood flow to function. So, just like with our heart, any disruption to this blood flow can put us at a serious health risk.
When arteries become damaged by high blood pressure, there’s an increased possibility of the brain’s blood supply being interrupted. This disruption is known as a stroke, and it’s capable of killing brain cells. The amount of cells that begin to die is dependent on the length of the stroke – the longer the stroke, the more severe the damage. That’s why it’s so important for a stroke to be treated quickly, in order to secure the best chance of recovery.
Strokes and mini-strokes (known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA) tend to be directly
caused by blood clots or burst blood vessels, two phenomena that are more likely to happen if you have untreated high blood pressure.
4) Kidney Damage
There are many ways for the kidneys to become damaged. Infections, inflammation, cysts, and high glucose levels from diabetes to name just a few potential causes. But did you know that high blood pressure can actually lead to chronic kidney disease? It’s actually a leading cause.
We already know that high blood pressure puts a serious strain on our circulation. If circulation becomes poor, then the kidney’s ability to filter your blood becomes compromised. This is because the structures within the kidney that perform this job – known as the nephrons – require a steady volume of blood. If they aren’t getting it, then the kidney will struggle to filter our waste and regulate our body.
There is even potential for a negative spiral to occur. Healthy kidneys produce hormones that help to regulate our blood pressure, but damaged kidneys might fail to do this. This damage, caused by high blood pressure, will thereby exacerbate the high blood pressure further – and so on. The eventual result can be as serious as kidney failure.
5) Sexual Dysfunction
While it may not be as dangerous as a heart attack or a stroke, sexual dysfunction is a real side effect of high blood pressure, and it’s one that can become an unpleasant obstacle in our daily lives and relationships.
Getting and maintaining erections is dependent on a healthy blood flow reaching the penis. But if the blood flow is limited by damaged arteries, then this can result in erectile dysfunction (impotence). Though this condition isn’t uncommon among men over 40, you’ll likely have a harder time getting it up if you suffer from high blood pressure – regardless of your age.
Sexual dysfunction can apply to women too, with a reduced blood flow to the vagina capable of causing a lowered libido, difficulties achieving orgasm and vaginal dryness.
How Can High Blood Pressure Be Prevented Or Treated?
Now that we’ve outlined the dangers of untreated high blood pressure, you might be wondering:
what can I do to prevent or treat it? It’s understandably concerning, given how serious the
potential risks are.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to prevent or reduce high blood pressure. Some of this will start from home with your daily habits, and some of it will require you to see a doctor to get the medication you need.
Positive lifestyle changes that can prevent or reduce high blood pressure include:
- Reducing dietary salt
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Reducing caffeine consumption
- Stopping smoking
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Regularly exercising
Sometimes these lifestyle changes will need to be complimented with medication. Thankfully, safe and effective prescription medication for high blood pressure is now available.
Treatments such as Ramipril Capsules for high blood pressure are able to treat hypertension, thus reducing the risks of strokes or kidney problems. Ramipril works by inhibiting a particular enzyme – the Angiotensin-converting enzyme – which controls hormones relating to blood pressure. The end result is that Ramipril relaxes and widens the blood vessels, leading to an improved blood flow throughout the body.
However, it’s important to note that Ramipril should be taken under supervision of a doctor or pharmacist, and that it should be taken exactly as prescribed with an awareness of any potential risks or side effects. That’s why it’s important to get your Ramipril prescriptions from UK licensed pharmacies such as e-Surgery.
If you’ve still got questions about high blood pressure and would like to know more, make sure to check out the Essential Guide to Blood Pressure – a run down of every need-to-know fact about this common condition, complete with information on monitoring yourself at home, available treatments, and more