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High blood pressure (hypertension) is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard. It also makes the walls of the arteries hard. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can also cause other problems, such as heart failure, kidney disease and blindness. The ultimate consequence of long term high blood pressure could be death.
The following are the most dangerous consequences of hypertension:
High blood pressure is the most important risk factor causing a stroke. Very high pressure can cause a break in a weakened blood vessel, resulting in bleeding in the brain, which can cause a stroke. When a blood clot blocks one of the narrowed arteries, it can also cause a stroke.
High blood pressure can eventually cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed. Vision may become blurred or otherwise impaired and it may result in blindness.
Arteries and coronary-artery disease
As people get older, arteries throughout the body "harden”, especially those in the heart, brain and kidneys. High blood pressure is associated with these "stiffer" arteries. This, in turn, causes the heart and kidneys to work harder.
The kidneys act as filters to rid the body of waste. Over time, high blood pressure can narrow and thicken the blood vessels of the kidneys. The kidneys filter less fluid, and waste builds up in the blood. The kidneys may fail altogether. When this happens, medical treatment (dialysis) or a kidney transplant may be needed.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for a heart attack. The arteries bring oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle. If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, chest pain, also known as "angina”, can occur. If the flow of blood is blocked, a heart attack occurs.
Congestive heart failure
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF is a serious condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body's needs.
People with high blood pressure are twice as likely to have a heart attack and are eight times as likely to suffer from a stroke as the normal population, especially if they are over 55.
High blood pressure can lead to hypertensive heart disease. It makes the heart work harder to push blood through the vascular system. It can make the heart grow in size and at the same time tire it out (and cause it finally to quit) with possible fatal consequences. Increase in blood pressure may also contribute to the building of fatty deposits on the artery walls and eventually clog them.
Studies have shown that hypertension may also shrink the size of the brain. This, in turn, may affect intellectual and cognitive functions.