Did you know that high blood pressure (hypertension) isn’t just bad for your heart, it’s bad for your entire body? Because your blood vessels supply every part of your body with resources, circulatory dysfunction, such as high blood pressure, has the potential to carry that damage far and wide.
Here are just a few of the potential complications that can result from hypertension.
Damage to the Heart and Brain
The heart is constantly stressed by high blood pressure. Over time, this stress can lead to chest pains (angina) and even heart failure.
The brain depends heavily on the supply of oxygen and other resources carried by the blood. To supply the brain, there’s an immense network of tiny blood vessels. But these blood vessels can become dangerous under the influence of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can damage these fine blood vessels, causing them to burst. This is known as a hemorrhagic stroke.
In addition, high blood pressure can dislodge plaque in the arteries and carry it to the brain, where it can block these fine blood vessels. This is called an ischemic stroke.
But it isn’t just hypertension that can have an impact on your brain function. Hypertension medications carry with them the risk of mood disorders like depression.
Eyes in Danger
Your eyes are also a delicate structure, and they are put at risk from high blood pressure. One of the mechanisms that can lead to hypertension-related vision loss is glaucoma: damage to the optic nerve normally caused by pressure. Glaucoma is sometimes described as the “silent thief of sight” because the first symptoms many people experience is irreparable vision loss.
Hypertension can also damage the retina, the cells that capture light and translate it into nerve impulses. The elevated pressure running through these delicate blood vessels can lead to retinopathy and vision loss.
Our kidneys are supposed to filter our blood and put the waste into our urine. But the filtration system of the kidneys is vulnerable to damage from high blood pressure. Over time, this will make the kidneys less effective and may lead to kidney failure.
Meanwhile, high blood pressure is associated with hypercalciuria–excessive calcium in the urine. This calcium has been leached from the bones, and is part of the causal chain that links high blood pressure to osteoporosis.
High blood pressure is linked to erectile dysfunction. Hypertension interferes with the erection mechanism, making it difficult to achieve an erection.
Hypertension and the medications that treat it can also cause a lack of libido–this impacts both men and women–so they less often feel sexual desire.
These Are Also Risks of Sleep Apnea
It’s important to understand that all the above risks are also associated with sleep apnea. In part, that’s because sleep apnea can cause hypertension.
In sleep apnea, your supply of air is cut off. When the brain tries to restore the supply, it tells the heart to beat harder. This creates a short-term increase in blood pressure. Over time, your body’s ability to regulate blood pressure is damaged and you develop hypertension.
What’s worse: for many people it’s not possible to treat hypertension without treating sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is associated with drug-resistant hypertension.
Fortunately, treating sleep apnea can reduce your blood pressure–and reduce your risk for the numerous associated complications.