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High Blood Pressure 101
High blood pressure is only a big deal if you eat too much salt, if it’s hereditary, or you have a weight problem, right? Wrong. Blood pressure is a
very good indicator of how oxygen is flowing through the blood. Extreme high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, etc. but there are many, many other reasons to examine your blood pressure.
Vascular weaknesses — First, the overstretching creates weak places in the vessels, making them more prone to rupture. Problems such as strokes and aneurysms are caused by ruptures in the blood vessels.
Vascular scarring — Second, the overstretching can cause tiny tears in the blood vessels that leave scar tissue on the walls of arteries and veins. These tears and the scar tissue are like nets, and can catch debris such as cholesterol, plaque or blood cells traveling in the bloodstream.
Tissue and organ damage from narrowed and blocked arteries — Ultimately, the arteries and veins on the other side of the blockage do not receive enough freshly oxygenated blood, which results in tissue damage.
Increased workload on the circulatory system — Think of it this way: in a home where several faucets are open and running, the water pressure flowing out of any one faucet is lower. But when pipes get clogged and therefore narrow, the pressure is much greater. And if all the household water is flowing through only one faucet, the pressure is higher still.
When the arteries are not as elastic because of the build-up of cholesterol or plaque or because of scarring, the heart pumps harder to get blood into the arteries. Over time, this increased work can result in damage to the heart itself. The muscles and valves in the heart can become damaged and heart failure can result.
Damage to the vessels that supply blood to your kidneys and brain may negatively affect these organs.
You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure can permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys before you feel anything. High blood pressure can often lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health consequences.
Dr. Jerome Lisk is board certified neurologist with a fellowship in movement disorders, named one of Pasadena Magazine’s Top Docs of 2011. He’s also Chairman and President of Southern California Movement Disorder Specialists. Dr. Lisk is also a medical contributor for healthyblackmen.org.