Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, is known as "the silent killer." More than 80 million Americans (33%) have high blood pressure, and as many as 16 million of them do not even know they have the condition.
High blood pressure can affect your health in four main ways: • Hardening of the arteries. Pressure inside your arteries can cause the muscles that line the walls of the arteries to thicken, thus narrowing the passage. A heart attack or stroke can occur if a blood clot blocks blood flow to your heart or brain.
• Enlarged heart. High blood pressure increases the amount of work for your heart. Like any heavily exercised muscle in your body, your heart grows bigger (enlarges) to handle the extra workload. The bigger your heart is, the more it demands oxygen-rich blood but the less able it is to maintain proper blood flow. As a result, you feel weak and tired and are not able to exercise or perform physical activities. Without treatment, your heart failure will only get worse.
• Kidney damage. Prolonged high blood pressure can damage your kidneys if their blood supply is affected.
• Eye damage. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure can cause the tiny capillaries in the retina of your eye to bleed. This condition, called retinopathy, can lead to blindness.
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