High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to either the systolic (top) pressure consistently measuring over 140 or the diastolic (bottom) pressure consistently measuring over 90. High blood pressure affects all types of people and occurs more often when certain risk factors are involved. High blood pressure causes health concerns as it places stress on several body organs, causing deterioration over time.
Healthy arteries allow blood to flow smoothly. If high blood pressure is present, a condition called arteriosclerosis can occur. This happens when the cells of the inner lining of the artery are damaged, resulting in thick and stiff arterial walls. Atherosclerosis develops when the fats consumed enter the blood stream and try to flow through damaged cells, collecting in the arteries. Any artery throughout the body can become affected with these problems, reports the Mayo Clinic. Over time, several health concerns arise including blocked blood flow to certain organs, a heart attack, peripheral artery disease and aneurysms.
The heart pumps blood throughout the entire body and is greatly affected by high blood pressure. Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called ischemic heart disease, can develop, causing the arteries to become narrow. This affects how blood flows and can further worsen atherosclerosis. Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and chest pains are experienced when the flow of blood is disrupted to the heart. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, CAD increases the risks for heart attack, stroke and death.
High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder, ensuring that blood is flowing throughout the body. An enlargement or stiffening of the ventricle occurs, resulting in left ventricular hypertrophy. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that this condition can lead to heart failure if not adequately treated.
The brain needs a good supply of blood flow to function appropriately, and if high blood pressure is present, certain health conditions develop. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs from a disruption in blood flow, commonly caused by atherosclerosis or a blood clot–resulting from high blood pressure. TIAs are usually a precursor to a stroke, reports the Mayo Clinic. Dementia and a mild cognitive impairment both result from blocked blood flow to the brain when high blood pressure damages the arteries.
According to the Mayo Clinic, high blood pressure is one of the causes of kidney failure. The kidneys filter out excess fluid and waste from the blood. The blood vessels located inside the kidney and leading to the kidney can be damaged from high blood pressure, causing the kidneys to ineffectively filter waste, leading to other diseases, dialysis or a kidney transplant.
About this Author
Elizabeth Hamilton has been employed as a licensed practical nurse for more than a decade in various medical settings. She has written articles appearing on LIVESTRONG and eHow.com. Her vast knowledge and passion for medicine are incorporated into the articles she writes.