There are very few symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension), but the side effects are numerous, and can be quite severe. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to problems related to the blood system, heart, kidneys, eyes, bones, and brain. Some of the more serious are discussed here.
Heart failure affects about 3.5 million Americans, and can be caused by hypertension, though it is most commonly caused by diabetes. Heart failure is usually indicated by shortness of breath, fatigue, or fluid buildup in the abdomen.
Strokes can be caused by hypertension and claims the lives of 150,000 Americans each year. Symptoms of stroke include sudden weakness in the face or extremities on one side of the body, severe headaches, sight problems, confusion, and trouble walking.
Coronary Artery Disease accounts for about one-third of all deaths in the United States, due to the buildup of plaque the arteries. This causes a blockage which restricts blood flow to the heart. If the artery becomes completely blood, acute coronary syndrome can result. The main symptom of coronary artery disease is chest discomfort (angina).
Acute Coronary Syndrome includes angina and heart attack, and is caused by acute coronary syndrome (cell blockage). Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and is most times caused by coronary artery disease. Symptoms include discomfort in the chest and upper body, nausea, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and cold sweats.
Chronic Renal Failure is the slow deterioration of normal kidney function. The most common cause of renal failure among Americans is diabetes, with hypertension being second. If renal failure is not treated, complications like heart failure may occur. Symptoms can include confusion, malnutrition, and seizures.
Peripheral Vascular Disease is a disease of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain. It’s often a narrowing of vessels that carry blood to the legs, arms, stomach or kidneys, and is similar to coronary artery disease.
Several eye disease can result from hypertension, including retinopathy (a disease of the retina that can result in the loss of vision), choroidopathy (a disease that causes fluid to build up under the retina, and optic neuropathy (disease of the optic nerve).
Other side effects of hypertension include erectile dysfunction, bone loss, and osteoporosis (a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break).
These side effects could save your life. You should see your doctor immediately if you have any of them. Keeping your blood pressure under control and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are keys to preventing complications of hypertension. Always take your medications as prescribed, keep your weight under control, don’t smoke, limit the amount of sodium in your diet, and stay physically active.