Hypertension can be frustrating for patients because many people who have hypertension do not feel ill. Blood pressures can become very high and cause no symptoms at all. Many patients resist lifestyle modifications or taking medications for a disease that does not give them symptoms. The problem is that even if hypertension does not cause symptoms it can still cause very significant long term problems. Some of the long term problems that can be a result of untreated hypertension include heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, and dementia.
The heart is a pump that pushes the blood through the body. When blood pressure is too high the heart has to work harder to move the blood. This can put strain on the heat and cause the heart to fail in several ways. A heart attack can be a consequence of over working the heart, this can be fatal or causes permanent disability. The muscle of the heart can become too big from this constant increased work causing myocardial hypertrophy. This can lead to heart failure and death. Lowering the blood pressure reduces the strain on the heart and allows the heart to remain healthy.
A stroke is caused when blood vessels in the brain become clogged or when they burst. Clogged blood vessels in the brain cause an ischemic stroke as the brain becomes deprived of oxygen and nutrients. When blood vessels in the brain burst it causes a hemorrhagic stroke. Both of these scenarios can cause permanent disability or death. Untreated hypertension can lead to both an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.
Peripheral vascular disease is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the extremities. This damage inhibits blood, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the tissues in the legs and feet. This can lead to pain ans the tissues are starved for oxygen (ischemia). This also can lead to ulcers and sores that will not heal. Hypertension, if not treated, can damage the blood vessels in the extremities and lead to peripheral vascular disease.
The kidneys are the organs that help clear toxins from the body, help maintain correct fluid balance, and keep electrolytes such as sodium and potassium in the proper balance. Untreated hypertension can damage the kidneys so that over time they stop functioning. If he kidneys fail from untreated hypertension dialysis or kidney transplant will be necessary to stay alive.
The small blood vessels in the brain can be damaged over time from untreated hypertension. This can cause damage to the cells in the brain do to decreased blood flow. This causes a syndrome referred to as hypertensive dementia.
Although hypertension may not cause immediate symptoms, over time high blood pressure can damage many vital organ systems in the body. The heart, brain, kidney, and extremities are all effected by untreated hypertension. This is why it is very important to take high blood pressure seriously. Lifestyle changes can be very difficult. Medications can be inconvenient, expensive, and have some side effects. But untreated hypertension over time can cause permanent disability or even death.