The fact that you know your blood pressure is high, but you are not experiencing any complications related to this disease, should actually make you happy.
How come, you might wonder?
A real “silent killer”, some say.
It’s a disease that rarely produces obvious symptoms in its early stages.
So if you have experienced some sudden blushing, sleeping issues, or unexplainable anxiety that resulted in being diagnosed as high blood pressure, you might be lucky.
We say this because it probably means that your condition was discovered on time.
High blood pressure often lingers undiscovered for years.
A timely discovery enables for the treatment to start before any significant damage to blood vessels, kidneys, heart, or your eyesight has been done.
It puts you in control.
This article aims to show you how important that control is.
We will explain how you can lower your blood pressure, reduce the damage, and save your sight.
However, let us first take a look at what causes high blood pressure?
The Causes of Hypertension
Your high blood pressure probably does not have a single cause.
It is most likely a combination of lifestyle factors, genetic factors, and other health conditions.
High blood pressure can be both, a consequence or a cause of an underlying condition (e.g. a chronic disease).
It is a chicken and egg situation with this disease.
For example, sometimes a person’s hypertension is older than their heart disease, and sometimes it is the other way around.
The first scenario is certainly better because, with a timely treatment of hypertension, consequences can be prevented.
Hypertension is characterized by increased pressure on the walls of blood vessels, exerted by blood.
Over time, this pressure can cause a lot of damage.
That is why the disease is referred to as “high blood pressure”.
An exact cause for hypertension is rarely known.
However, there are important risk factors that contribute to the development of the condition.
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Family history of hypertension
- Diet rich in salt and processed foods
What Hypertension Does to Your Body
High blood pressure damages your body from the inside.
If you don’t treat it, it will keep working against your health with every second that goes by.
Every tissue and every organ through which the blood passes experiences the damaging effect of high blood pressure.
However, some parts of your body are at a greater risk than others.
High blood pressure damages your arteries over time.
It makes their walls thinner and causes them to become narrow and less elastic.
The damage to the inner lining of the arteries enables fats to deposit inside. This can potentially clog up the artery.
Thinner artery walls can develop aneurysms.
These are thin, bulging sections of artery walls that can potentially rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding.
Untreated hypertension puts too much strain on the heart.
In the long run, this can cause heart issues, such as the weakening of the heart muscle, enlargement of the left ventricle, and coronary artery disease.
Damage to the blood vessels in the brain causes all kinds of problems ranging from stroke to dementia.
High blood pressure can cause kidney failure.
Hypertension is also associated with erectile dysfunction.
Hypertension and Eyesight
High blood pressure causes damage to your blood vessels.
We made this very clear by now.
You might guess that there are blood vessels in the eyes, too.
They also get damaged.
This results in eye disease known as hypertensive retinopathy.
The condition which develops when small blood vessels in the retina are damaged by high blood pressure.
The retina is located in the back of the eye.
It is the place in the eye where images, brought by light, focus. Damage to the retina, therefore, results in impaired eyesight.
Untreated high blood pressure can severely damage your sight.
However, it is almost impossible to experience any symptoms of this damage until very late in the process.
Only an ophthalmologist’s exam can detect the damage on time.
First signs of hypertensive retinopathy are:
- Spots on the retina surface
- Narrowing of the small blood vessels in the retina
- Swelling of the optic nerve and the macula (the center of the retina)
You cannot reverse the damage to the blood vessels in the eye.
However, you can stop further damage if you manage your hypertension properly.
How to Lower Your Blood Pressure
You can only maintain your blood pressure at a normal level, over a longer period of time, with the medications therapy.
This means that other methods of controlling hypertension do not provide good results without medications.
However, it does not mean that medications alone, without lifestyle changes, are enough.
You can achieve a good quality of life only with a comprehensive approach.
Medications are the most important but other things are important too.
A car is a good analogy.
The engine will never run without fuel.
The fuel is crucial.
But, what good are the fuel and the engine if the car doesn’t have the wheels.
For best results, every part needs to be maintained.
Diet and exercise.
The trick is old but it still works.
Physical activity is highly beneficial for the health of your heart and blood vessels.
One hour a day, five to six days a week.
Walking, running, swimming, cycling, or any other activity that causes your heart rate to increase.
When it comes to diet, saturated fats and carbs are the worse in the long run.
Saturated fats tend to deposit inside the blood vessels.
The unspent carbs get stored as fat inside your body, leading to weight gain and a number of potential health issues.
You also need to keep the total salt intake under 5 grams a day.
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables with moderate consumption of lean meats and dairy products is the best choice.
Increased blood pressure is a part of the normal stress response process.
When stress is rare, this temporary increase can be tolerated.
However, too much stress can cause too many of these blood pressure spikes and that is something you will want to avoid.
In addition to this, coping with stress can have you reaching for alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.
Needless to say, this does not help your hypertension treatment.
There are many kinds of antihypertensive medications.
One important thing that they all have in common is the lack of any significant side effects.
Antihypertensive drugs are usually very effective and can really help you to maintain a high quality of life.
You should never take them on your own.
Consult your medical care provider.
They will know which medication, or a combination of medications, is best for you.
The following is a list of various types of antihypertensive drugs:
- Diuretics – help to expel water and salts from the body
- Vasodilators – help the dilatation of blood vessels.
- Central Agonists – prevent the brain from increasing heart rate and narrowing the blood vessels
- Beta-Blockers – slow down the heart rate
- Calcium-Channel Blockers – relax the blood vessels
- Angiotensin Receptor Blockers – relax the blood vessels
- Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE) – relax the blood vessels
- Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors – prevent the tightening of blood vessels
The Bottom Line
Without treatment, high blood pressure can seriously damage your eyesight.
This damage is difficult to notice in an early stage.
That is why you should have your eyes checked regularly if you are suffering from hypertension.
High blood pressure can be kept under control with medications and lifestyle changes.
By controlling the condition, you can successfully prevent the damage to your eyesight.
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