High blood pressure affects nearly 75 million Americans and is a known risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
About one in three Americans has prehypertension, which means their blood pressure readings are higher than normal and puts them at risk for hypertension.
The American Heart Association has put together blood pressure recommendations to help people stay healthy and avoid hypotension or hypertension.
- Hypotension (too low): Lower than 90/60 mm Hg
- Normal: Lower than 120/80 mm Hg
- Prehypertension: 120/80 to 139/89 mm Hg
- Hypertension stage 1: 140/90 to 159/99 mm Hg
- Hypertension stage 2: Higher than 160/100 mm Hg
- Hypertension crisis: 180/110 mm Hg – emergency personnel should be called
Systolic pressure is usually taken more seriously as it is associated with greater health risks, particularly among seniors.
Hypertension can be well managed with lifestyle adjustments and even medications. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, along with other complications. Below you will find some of the common health complications associated with hypertension.
Complications of high blood pressure
Aneurysm: When blood pressure is high, blood vessels begin to weaken and bulge, causing an aneurysm to form. A ruptured aneurysm can be life threatening.
Heart failure: High blood pressure causes the heart muscle to thicken. The thicker the heart becomes, the more difficult it is to pump blood, which in the long run can contribute to heart failure.
Weakened vessels in the kidneys: When the vessels leading to the kidneys become weak or narrow, this can contribute to kidney disease or kidney failure.
Metabolic syndrome: This is a cluster of conditions including increased waist circumference, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high insulin levels. Having these conditions increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Memory and cognitive problems: The ability to learn, think, or remember can be impaired. Memory problems are a common complaint among hypertension patients.
Eye problems: High blood pressure is associated with a whole slew of eye problems, such as damage to the eye blood vessels, fluid buildup in the retina, and nerve damage in the eye. This damage can result in changes in vision and even contribute to vision loss.
Sexual dysfunction: Hypertensive men face a higher risk of erectile dysfunction – the ability to get or maintain an erection. Over time, high blood pressure makes the blood vessels leading to the penis thinner, causing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which limits blood flow to this organ.
Nevertheless, women with high blood pressure can experience sexual dysfunction, too. Limited blood flow to the vagina reduces sexual desire, leads to vaginal dryness and difficulties achieving orgasm.
Bone loss: High blood pressure increases calcium content in urine. When more calcium leaves the body, there is less remaining for your bones, which means impending bone loss. This risk is higher among older women.
Sleep problems: Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder tied to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can trigger sleep apnea, and sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure. Treating this sleep disorder can greatly improve your blood pressure.
As you can see, high blood pressure can affect many areas of your health, not just your heart. It is important that you make the necessary lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure naturally. If natural means are unsuccessful, speak to your doctor about medication options.