Complications of High Blood Pressure, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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Complications of High Blood Pressure, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Causes of High Blood Pressure

More than 3 million cases of high blood pressure are diagnosed in the United States each year. High blood pressure is called the silent killer because often times when high blood pressure is diagnosed, the person already has organ damage. The accepted Blood pressure guideline is 120/80. 

Generally, blood pressure will rise with age unless you embark on serious lifestyle changes. Some medical problems can predispose you to high blood pressure. These medical problems are:

  • Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Certain medications such as decongestants and steroids

In some women, birth control pills raise the blood pressure. Pregnancy and hormone therapy can also increase the blood pressure.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

There are certain risk factors that are modifiable and some that are not modifiable.

The factors that can not be modified are:

  • Age- 65% of people over the age of 60 has high blood pressure
  • Sex – Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure
  • Race – African Americans has a higher rate of high blood pressure than any group
  • Genetics – People with a genetic tendency of heart disease are at risk

The factors that can be modified are:

  • Drinking excess alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • High salt and processed food diet
  • Not getting enough potassium
  • Stress

Risk factors for Children and Teens

High blood pressure has increased in children. This is an alarming trend. This trend is due to the rising rate of obesity and the lack of exercise among children. Boys are at a higher risk for high blood pressure than girls.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

For a select few, there are some symptoms that you should be aware of.

  • Nosebleeds
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Blood spots in the eyes
  • Facial Flushing

Complications of high blood pressure

  • Aneurysms: When an abnormal bulge forms in the wall of an artery. Aneurysms develop and grow for years without causing signs or symptoms until they rupture, grow large enough to press on nearby body parts, or block blood flow. The signs and symptoms that develop depend on the location of an aneurysm. Aneurysms are found mainly in the abdomen and brain. 
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: When blood vessels narrow in the kidneys, possibly causing kidney failure.  This is a serious complication of high blood pressure because it can lead dialysis. Dialysis is when the kidneys can no longer filter toxins and urine.
  • Cognitive Changes: Research shows that over time, higher blood pressure numbers can lead to cognitive changes. Signs and symptoms include memory loss, difficulty finding words, and losing focus during conversations.
  • Eye Damage: When blood vessels in the eyes burst or bleed. Signs and symptoms include vision changes or blindness. Retinal hemorrhage can also result from high blood pressure.
  • Heart Attack: When the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart doesn’t get oxygen. The most common warning symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain or discomfort, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.
  • Heart Failure: When the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Common signs and symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath or trouble breathing; feeling tired; and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease: A disease in which plaque builds up in leg arteries and affects blood flow in the legs. When people have symptoms, the most common symptoms are pain, cramping, numbness, aching, or heaviness in the legs, feet, and buttocks after walking or climbing stairs.
  • Stroke: When the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. The symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset of weakness; paralysis or numbness of the face, arms, or legs; trouble speaking or understanding speech; and trouble seeing.

New Guidelines for High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure should be treated earlier with lifestyle changes and in some patients with medication – at 130/80 mm Hg rather than 140/90 – based on new ACC and American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for the detection, prevention, management and treatment of high blood pressure.

Blood pressure categories in the new guideline are:

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120-129 and diastolic less than 80;
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
  • Hypertensive crisis: Systolic over 180 and/or diastolic over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

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