Hypertension isn’t usually a death sentence, but it’s closely related to some of the world’s biggest killers, including heart disease and strokes.
Knowing how hypertension is related to these conditions is crucial for managing high blood pressure, and keeping yourself healthy.
Thankfully, high blood pressure can be easy to manage if it’s caught early.
Let’s take a closer look at the links between hypertension, heart disease (see also: 8 Foods You Should Avoid With Heart Disease)and strokes, and what you can do to manage the condition and reduce your chances of experiencing a stroke or a cardiovascular event.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the medical term used to refer to a process whereby the pressure in your blood vessels can raise to extremely high levels. If hypertension isn’t treated, it can be serious.
When your blood pressure is too high, your heart will have to work harder to pump blood around your body.
Your body requires a certain amount of pressure to move blood around your body, and it’s normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, and raise when you’re exercising.
However, if your blood pressure is consistently high even during rest, you may require treatment.
Sometimes, high blood pressure produces no symptoms. Sometimes, though, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If left untreated, hypertension could lead to serious complications, including:
- Problems with your vision
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Vascular dementia
Can Hypertension Increase The Risk Of Heart Disease and Strokes?
In addition to the complications listed above, hypertension can also increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
When you have hypertension, blood will pump through your arteries with excessive force.
This can reduce the flow of blood to the heart, and increase the risk of heart disease.
If you have hypertension, the arteries that supply your brain may also be damaged, which could lead to a stroke. Heart disease and strokes also have their own relations and risk factors.
How Does Hypertension Cause Heart Disease?
Hypertension doesn’t damage the arteries that lead to your heart, it can also damage the heart itself.
When your arteries are exposed to consistently high pressure, they will eventually start to stiffen with the force.
Stiff arteries are more susceptible to plaque buildup, and if they start to narrow due to this plaque, the process is called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a common cause of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues, including myocardial infarction, claudication, and even heart failure. Atherosclerosis is also responsible for the majority of heart attacks.
Hypertension can also cause your heart to work faster to pump blood, which causes the heart muscle to thicken.
Such changes can reduce the flow of blood to your heart, leading to issues such as heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure.
Can Hypertension Cause A Stroke?
Hypertension can also increase your risk of having a stroke. There are two types of stroke, and both types can be caused by high blood pressure. These are:
A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain, caused by a ruptured blood vessel.
The two types of weakened vessels that can cause hemorrhagic strokes include arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) and aneurysms.
When the weakened vessel ruptures, it bleeds into the brain. This blood starts to accumulate and puts pressure on the brain tissue.
Hypertension can cause hemorrhagic strokes if your blood vessels have become weakened.
Ischaemic strokes happen when a blockage obstructs the blood supply to your brain and kills your brain cells. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke.
With an ischaemic stroke, blood cuts will tend to form in areas of the body where your arteries have become narrowed or blocked by plaque caused by atherosclerosis.
Hypertension is one of the most common causes of ischaemic strokes.
What Causes Hypertension?
There are several known risk factors that increase your risk of developing hypertension, and most of them are environmental.
Some of the most common risk factors for hypertension include:
- Eating too much salt
- A lack of fruit and vegetables in your diet
- Drinking too much alcohol, coffee, or caffeine-based drinks
- Living in a deprived area
- A lack of sleep or poor sleep quality (such as disturbed sleep)
- Being of black Caribbean or African descent
- Having a close relative with hypertension
- Ageing (those over 65 are at a higher risk of developing hypertension)
In other cases, hypertension is the result of an existing, underlying condition. Some health conditions that may cause hypertension include:
- Chronic kidney infections
- Kidney disease
- Hormone issues, including over or under-active thyroid, Cushing’s syndrome, and acromegaly
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Can Medication Increase Your Risk Of Hypertension?
Unfortunately, some prescribed medications and even herbal remedies can increase your blood pressure.
If you’re trying to manage your hypertension, you should be aware that the following medications are known to increase blood pressure:
- Pain medications including aspirin (in multiple doses), and ibuprofen
- Decongestant medications are known to narrow your blood vessels and make your body work harder to pump blood
- Some antidepressants including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Birth control pills and devices may make the blood vessels smaller and raise blood pressure. You may be at an increased risk of developing hypertension on birth control if you’re also overweight or smoke
Some herbal supplements may also increase your blood pressure, including:
If you have hypertension, you should talk to a medical professional before taking any of these herbal supplements.
Hypertension has a variety of causes. It’s also one of the biggest risk factors for strokes and heart disease.
Hypertension is extremely common, and if it’s caught early, you’ll be able to manage it through a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
Hypertension isn’t always fatal, but it can be dangerous – especially if left undetected.
If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, talk to your doctor to determine the correct treatment plan for you.