According to the American Heart Association, 74.5 million Americans have high blood pressure. Since there are few signs, this potentially fatal problem often goes unnoticed. Lowering your blood pressure to an acceptable level—120/80 as defined by MedlinePlus—can reduce your risk for a number of high blood pressure-related complications.
Avoid Heart Problems
High blood pressure puts strain on your heart, increasing your risk of angina, peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack and heart failure. Damaged arteries resulting from high blood pressure collect plaque, harden and become narrower. Over time, the heart becomes damaged and enlarges. The AMA cautions that damage to the heart can't be undone by the body. Lowering your blood pressure to a normal level prevents future damage and helps mitigate any previous damage by letting the heart work under optimal conditions. Even so, a 2010 article in the "American Journal of Cardiology" reports that researchers at the Oklahoma Cardiovascular and Hypertension Center and the University of Oklahoma conclude that there is an inverse relationship between low blood pressure and cardiovascular complications.
Reduce Risk of Stroke
High blood pressure puts strain on blood vessels throughout the body. When a blood vessel to the brain bursts or becomes blocked by a clot, a stroke happens. According to the AMA, chronic high blood pressure is a risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke, while the potential damage caused by high blood pressure contributes to ischemic stroke. Lowering your blood pressure may reduce your risk for developing a stroke but might not reduce the complications associated with a stroke. The "American Journal of Cardiology" states the Oklahoma Cardiovascular and Hypertension Center and UO researchers found no inverse relationship between lowering blood pressure and complications from stroke.
High blood pressure places strain on your eyes. The damage to your vision caused by high blood pressure builds up over time, notes the AMA. Lowering your blood pressure to an acceptable level reduces the strain placed on the optic nerve, which is the nerve responsible for your ability to see well. Uncontrolled blood pressure can also lead to hypertensive retinopathy, a disease that affects the eye's retina. MedlinePlus asserts that the only treatment for this damage is lowering and maintaining your blood pressure levels. If you suffer a hypertensive stroke, your vision is also at risk. Strokes can affect the optic nerve and the parts of the brain largely responsible for processing the things you see.
Boost Kidney Health
Your kidneys produce a hormone that helps regulate high blood pressure. High blood pressure damages the kidneys. Once damaged, they can no longer help regulate blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure can help prevent this vicious cycle and reduce the likelihood of total kidney failure.
Is This an Emergency?
- "American Journal of Cardiology"; Effectiveness of Lowering Blood Pressure to Prevent Stroke Versus to Prevent Coronary Events; G.S. Chrysant, S.G. Chrysant; 2010
- American Heart Association: Why Blood Pressure Matters: Heart and Artery Damage and High Blood Pressure
- American Heart Association: Why Blood Pressure Matters: Stroke and High Blood Pressure
- American Heart Association: Why Blood Pressure Matters: Vision Loss and High Blood Pressure
- MedlinePlus: Hypertensive Retinopathy
- American Heart Association: Why Blood Pressure Matters: Kidney Damage and High Blood Pressure