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November 15, 2016 | Cardiology
High blood pressure (HBP), also known as hypertension, is the most common blood- or heart-related disease in humans. It affects roughly one third of the adult population in the United States, about 80 million Americans.
The difficulty of detecting HBP outside a standard checkup means that about one in every five sufferers has no idea they’re even at risk. You should get your blood pressure checked during every doctor’s visit, and you can find do-it-yourself blood pressure checkers at most drug stores. If you can’t find a chart for interpreting your reading, there are plenty online.
The process by which high blood pressure negatively affects the body is pretty straightforward:
High blood pressure can cause problems in many parts of the body, but the most dangerous area is the heart. A series of conditions grouped together as “hypertensive heart disease” combine to form the top fatality risk among disorders connected to HBP.
This group of diseases shares several major risk factors:
High blood pressure can lead to a variety of other heart conditions including heart failure, ischemic heart disease and heart attack.
Heart failure is more like heart weakening. This condition describes any time the muscles of the heart aren’t able to pump blood as usual. As a result, pressure builds up and the entire process of blood delivery slows down as the body tries to compensate.
High blood pressure isn’t the only cause of heart failure, but it’s a common one. HBP causes the heart muscles to thicken up and struggle to relax between beats, a condition known as “left ventricular hypertrophy.” The heart can’t fill quickly enough to distribute blood everywhere it’s needed, and beats per minute (BPM) start to increase.
Symptoms of heart failure are generally pretty noticeable, though they don’t tend to include the sort of physical chest pain often associated with other heart diseases. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Swelling or bloating
Nausea, fatigue or difficulty breathing
Trouble sleeping, or frequent urination at night (often related)
Irregular or interrupted heartbeat
Where heart failure takes place inside the heart itself, ischemic heart disease occurs in other areas of the bloodstream. Plaque in the arteries builds up over time and slows the flow of blood to the heart, creating a domino effect where the heart doesn’t receive enough blood to do its job.
Symptoms of ischemic heart disease are like those for heart failure, but with a few specific additions. Chest pain is common, and in some cases, this pain extends to other parts of the body or is accompanied by nausea or dizziness.
Enough buildup of gunk in the arteries can lead to this worst-case scenario. During a heart attack, blood flow is cut off so that certain sections of the heart start dying due to oxygen deprivation.
Someone experiencing a heart attack will almost always show immediate and noticeable symptoms, sometimes including the inability to speak correctly or strange facial expressions. Because of the way heart attacks take place, the speed of responders is vital to survival and health in the aftermath. The longer parts of the heart are blocked from blood and oxygen, the higher risk of death.
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.