Authored by Revere Health

High Blood Pressure’s Effects on Your Heart and Body

November 6, 2017 | Cardiology

Also called hypertension, high blood pressure is a condition that can cause damage to several areas of the body over a period of years. This is often the case before you notice any symptoms, and it can lead to disease, poor quality of life and even heart attack in some cases. About half of all people with untreated hypertension die of heart disease related to poor blood flow, and another third die of stroke.

The right treatment and lifestyle choices can help control blood pressure and reduce your risk of major complications. Here are some of these complications, starting with the heart and arteries.

Heart Damage

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to several heart complications:

•Coronary artery disease (CAD): CAD narrows the arteries and hinders blood flow from freely moving through them. This can lead to chest pain, a heart attack or irregular heart rhythms.

•Enlarged left heart: The heart has to work harder in a person with high blood pressure, causing the left ventricle to thicken or stiffen. This makes the left ventricle less able to pump blood, leading to higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, and sudden heart death.

  • •Heart failure: Strain caused by high blood pressure can weaken the heart muscle over time, eventually causing it to wear down and fail.

Artery Damage

Healthy arteries are flexible and strong, and allow blood to flow freely. High blood pressure can cause a couple issues with the arteries:

•Damaged and narrowed arteries: High blood pressure can damage the inner lining, causing fats to collect in the damaged areas and limiting the elasticity of the walls.

  • •Aneurysm: Constant pressure can cause a bulge, which can rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding. Aneurysms are most common in the aorta, the body’s largest artery.

Brain Damage

The brain depends on blood for its functionality and survival. High blood pressure can cause a few issues:

  • •Transient ischemic attack (TIA): A disruption of blood supply to the brain, often a warning sign for a stroke.
  • •Stroke: When part of the brain is deprived of nutrients and oxygen, and brain cells die.
  • •Dementia: A brain disease that is accompanied by difficulty thinking, speaking and reasoning, and problems with memory and vision.
  • •Mild cognitive impairment: A transition stage between changes in understanding and memory that come with aging versus the more serious issues that come with Alzheimer’s disease.

Eye Damage

The eyes are supplied with blood by minuscule blood vessels that are very delicate. These can also be damaged by hypertension in a few ways:

  • •Eye blood vessel damage (retinopathy): When vessels supplying blood are weakened. This can lead to bleeding, blurred vision or complete loss of vision.
  • •Fluid buildup under the retina (choroidopathy): Due to a leaky blood vessel in a layer of vessels under the retina.
  • •Nerve damage (optic neuropathy): When blocked blood flow damages the optic nerve, possibly killing nerve cells in the eye and causing bleeding or vision loss.

Sexual Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction becomes more common in men over the age of 50, and it’s even more likely with high blood pressure. Less blood is able to flow to the penis, and some men struggle to get or maintain an erection.

Women can have sexual dysfunction due to high blood pressure as well. It can reduce blood flow to the vagina, causing decreased sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness or difficulty achieving orgasm.

Other Dangers

Other dangers of high blood pressure include:

•Osteoporosis: High blood pressure can increase calcium in the urine, which may lead to loss of bone density (osteoporosis). This risk is high for older women.

  • •Trouble sleeping: Obstructive sleep apnea, in which your throat muscles relax and cause you to snore loudly, occurs in over half of people who have high blood pressure. High blood pressure may trigger sleep apnea, and sleep deprivation due to sleep apnea can raise blood pressure as well.


High blood pressure generally develops as a chronic condition over a period of years. In some cases, though, it can rise so quickly and severely that it creates an immediate medical emergency, often requiring hospitalization. In these cases, damage may include:

Memory loss, personality changes, issues concentrating, irritability or progressive loss of consciousness

  • •Memory loss, personality changes, issues concentrating, irritability or progressive loss of consciousness
  • •Stroke
  • •Severe damage to the main artery
  • •Chest pain
  • •Heart attack
  • •Sudden impaired heart pumping, leading to fluid backup in the lungs and shortness of breath (pulmonary edema)
  • •Sudden loss of kidney function
  • •Complications in pregnant women

Your doctor can offer further education and recommendations for the treatment of high blood pressure.



“High blood pressure (hypertension). The Mayo Clinic.

“High Blood Pressure.” American Heart Association.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.