High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) puts your health and quality of life in danger
Left uncontrolled or undetected, high blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart attack — High blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood from flowing to tissues in the heart muscle.
- Stroke — High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst or clog more easily.
- Heart failure — The increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and fail to supply blood to the body.
- Kidney disease or failure — High blood pressure can damage the arteries around the kidneys and interfere with their ability to effectively filter blood.
- Vision loss — High blood pressure can strain or damage blood vessels in the eyes.
- Sexual dysfunction — This can be erectile dysfunction in men or lower libido in women.
- Angina — Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease or microvascular disease. Angina, or chest pain, is a common symptom.
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) — Artherosclerosis caused by high blood pressure can cause a narrowing of arteries in the legs, arms, stomach and head, causing pain or fatigue.
Can hypertension cause other problems?
When your blood pressure is too high for too long, it damages your blood vessels — and LDL cholesterol begins to accumulate along tears in your artery walls. This increases the workload of your circulatory system while decreasing its efficiency. As a result, high blood pressure puts you at greater risk for the development of life-changing and potentially life-threating conditions.
Your best protection is knowledge, management and prevention
- Know your numbers — The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.
- Understand the symptoms and risks — Learn what factors could make you more likely to develop high blood pressure and determine your risk for serious medical problems.
- Make changes that matter — Take steps to reduce your risk and manage blood pressure. Make heart-healthy lifestyle changes, take your medication as prescribed and work in partnership with your doctor.
High blood pressure and hypertensive crisis
In most cases, the damage done by high blood pressure takes place over time. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/110 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, call 9-1-1 immediately — especially if you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, vision changes or difficulty speaking. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.
High blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance syndrome)
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including high blood pressure, that raises risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other health problems. It is diagnosed when any three of these risk factors are present:
- High blood glucose (sugar)
- Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the blood
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Large waist circumference or “apple-shaped” body
- High blood pressure
This content was last reviewed October 2016.