High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It occurs when your heart is working harder than normal to pump the blood through your body. If high blood pressure is not controlled, it can lead to brain, kidney, eye, heart or blood vessel damage, as well as heart disease or stroke.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the blood vessel walls as it travels through the body. Blood pressure is necessary to move the blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the body’s organs and muscles. Your blood pressure can change from one minute to the next to adapt to your physical, mental or emotional state or activity.
What is considered to be high blood pressure?
Your blood pressure will be reported to you with two numbers: the systolic and the diastolic pressure readings. The systolic blood pressure is the higher number. Normal blood pressure for adults should be less than 140/90 mm Hg, or “140 over 90.” If your blood pressure stays above 140/90 mm Hg in repeated tests, you are said to have high blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure gets, the more you are at risk for other complications such as heart disease. The lower your blood pressure is, the healthier your heart and vascular system is said to be, although extremely low blood pressure can also cause problems.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
High blood pressure is often known as the “Silent Killer” because it usually has no external symptoms. Headaches, dizzy spells, anxiety and other symptoms are usually not related to hypertension.
While there are typically no external symptoms of high blood pressure, your internal body organs may be damaged over time as a result of high blood pressure. If you are considered to have hypertension, your heart works harder, causing your veins and arteries to thicken and become stiff. As the arteries thicken, they become narrower faster. This makes it difficult for the blood to get through the vessels to organs such as the heart, kidneys and brain. When these organs cannot get enough blood, your risk for heart disease, kidney damage and/or stroke increases.
In addition to thickening arteries, high blood pressure can cause hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the enlargement of the heart caused because the heart is working overtime. When your heart becomes larger, it increases your risk for heart failure and heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias).
Because there are no external symptoms of high blood pressure, you may not realize the effects of high blood pressure until these conditions are in more advanced stages.