It is likely that the last time you went into your primary care physician’s office for your annual check-up, or the last time you visited the emergency room, that you had your blood pressure taken. It is a routine procedure that is standard and is conducted at all health care facilities. It is considered an important part of your health evaluation. Having blood pressure levels that falls within normal ranges is important to proper health maintenance and has both short term and long-term implications on your health.

What is high blood pressure or hypertension?

High blood pressure, or Hypertension, is a condition in which the blood pressure of a person exceeds normal limits. A person is said to be hypertensive if his or her diastolic blood pressure is 80- 89 mmHg and systolic blood pressure is between 130-139 mmHg (Stage 1 hypertension). In plain terms, it is when the force of the blood that is pumped by the heart through the blood vessels of the body is consistently too high.  

Hypertension can develop as a result of many different factors and can cause several deleterious effects on your body. This article discusses some of the more harmful effects that high blood pressure can cause, which should all be included in your discussion when consulting your primary care physician.

What are the types of high blood pressure and their causes?

Depending on the causes, hypertension is divided into two types, primary hypertension and secondary hypertension.

Primary (essential) hypertension

Hypertension that arises from unknown cause is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. An estimated 95% of hypertensive patients in the United States are reported to have hypertension with causes that are not well established. This type of hypertension develops over a long period of time.

Most people develop primary hypertension as they get older and begin losing elasticity in their blood vessels. The elasticity in the walls of your blood vessels resists the pressure exerted by the blood pumped from your heart, keeping your blood pressure within normal limits. However, with age, there are degenerative changes in your blood vessels that decreases the elasticity of their walls making them harder, resulting in the development of hypertension.

Although the exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, doctors believe that there are several factors that my play a role in its development. Among these factors are;

  • Using tobacco
  • A lack of physical activity
  • Poor diet and being overweight
  • Having a high sodium diet
  • Having too little potassium
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Abnormal stress levels
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Taking birth control pills

Secondary Hypertension

Opposite to primary hypertension is secondary hypertension. This form of high blood pressure can be identified when there is a direct cause that can be pinpointed. The most predominant known cause of secondary hypertension, among all diseases and factors, is kidney disease.

Other factors that may cause or trigger this form of hypertension include;

  • Adrenal gland tumours
  • Issues with your thyroid
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Certain medications (birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, pain relievers, and some prescription medications)
  • Illegal drugs (cocaine, amphetamines etc.)
  • Increased activity of the sympathetic system can also result in increased blood pressure
  • And other factors such as Age, Race, Pregnancy and Diabetes

Long term effects of Hypertension

There can be extensive damage done to the body if your hypertension is not addressed and maintained through proper health care received from a licensed medical professional. Excessive pressure on your artery walls as a result of hypertension, especially over a prolonged period, can be very destructive to your blood vessels and to the organs of your body.

Cardiac Anomalies

Cardiac problems are at the top of the list of the worse health problems caused by hypertension. Arteries are damaged by high blood pressure causing blockage and prevent adequate blood from flowing to the heart muscles. The damage caused from this results in the heart working harder to pump blood throughout the body. The associated heart conditions developed include;

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Heart Attacks
  • Heart Failure

These are among the diseases that fall under the umbrella of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.


A stoke is another serious cause of high blood pressure. This happens when the increased pressure on the walls of the blood vessels causes them to become blocked, or results in them rupturing and bleeding. During this life-threatening incident, blood is prevented from reaching the brain’s tissues causing serious damage. It is critical for someone having a stroke to receive immediate medical attention in order to prevent irreparable damage, or death.

Stroke symptoms can include;

  • Confusion
  • Paralysis
  • Trouble speaking or slurring speech
  • Numbness or weakness in the arm, face and leg.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the brain, leading to stroke and other diseases. Consult your physician to discuss the causes oh high blood pressure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks stroke as the fifth leading cause of death in the united states, killing more than 140,000 of the 795,000 that suffers a stroke each year. It is the second leading cause of death globally behind Ischaemic heart disease.

The best guard against a stroke is proper health maintenance, which is includes maintaining normal blood pressure levels. Regular visits to your primary care physician is a critical preventative measure that should be taken by all individuals concerned with their health.

Hypertensive Retinopathy

Hypertension can damage the blood vessels of the retina resulting in hypertensive retinopathy. When your blood pressure rises to hypertensive levels, the blood vessel walls of the retina may thicken, causing them to become narrowed restricting blood flow. Once this continues over a period of time, the function of the retina lowers and puts pressure on the optic nerve, causing vision problems or complete vision loss.

Renal Failure

Hypertension also damages the renal vasculature. It is the second leading cause of kidney failure. High blood pressure causes the renal blood vessels to become narrowed, harder and weak. This limits the oxygen and nutrients your kidneys need, ultimately lowering their ability to properly filter wastes and extra fluids from the blood.

Long-standing hypertension can result in acute kidney failure, which happens when the kidneys completely lose their filtering ability. This causes the dangerous accumulation of waste, and the imbalance of your blood chemical makeup.

Erectile Dysfunction

Hypertension also damages the blood vessels supplying the blood to the penis. Erectile dysfunction is one of the common complains seen in hypertensive men. The American Geriatrics Society found in a study that 49% of men between the ages of 40-79 who suffered from high blood pressure also had erectile dysfunction.


The obvious conclusion is that high blood pressure (hypertension) can have a rainbow of adverse effects on the body that can lead to numerous diseases, and ultimately death. There are many simple things that can be done to prevent against the issues caused by hypertension, the simplest of which are changes in your lifestyle and having frequent check-ups with your primary care doctor.

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