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Deadly Effects of High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Complications

The effects of high blood pressure can be devastating to health, in the long term.  Although its symptoms are sometimes hardly noticeable untreated high blood pressure can affect vital organs, resulting in extensive damage to these organs.

Because high blood pressure (hypertension) exhibits little or no symptoms in the early stages, many people tend to ignore it.


The effects of hypertension can be extensive and deadly.

Primarily, hypertension pounds away at the arteries, heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.  Over a period of time these vital organs become damaged and can no longer function the way they should.

This causes organ failure and the associated problems of deteriorating health, high medical bills, mental and emotional stress, and so on...  This can all be avoided if high blood pressure is diagnosed early and treated effectively.

Effects of High Blood Pressure on the Kidneys

The kidneys perform the extremely important function of filtering wastes from the blood, then channeling it into the urine for excretion.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure affects the kidneys by causing premature atherosclerosis to the blood vessels within the kidneys, decreasing their supply of oxygen and nutrients.  Consequently, they become less efficient and toxins build up in the blood, leading to a condition called uremia.  If left unchecked, this can progress to kidney failure.

It should be noted that while hypertension affects the kidneys, it can also be caused by kidney failure.  There is a reciprocal relationship between hypertension and the kidneys.  Hypertension can cause kidney failure (as explained above) but kidney failure can cause hypertension.

The kidneys play an important role in controlling blood pressure through a complex process.  When the kidneys are not working properly, this process is affected, resulting in hypertension. Here's how...

Basically, the kidneys release an enzyme called renin, which causes a chain reaction resulting in increased blood volume, coupled with the constriction of blood vessels, which leads to elevated blood pressure.  Normally, this should only happen if blood volume or sodium is low or when the body is dehydrated.  When the kidneys are not working as they should, however, this process tends to happen when the blood pressure is normal or, even worse, when it is already high.  As you can imagine, the effects of this can be devastating.  It is therefore extremely important for persons with kidney failure or kidney damage to ensure that their blood pressure is controlled.

Effects of High Blood Pressure on the Vascular System

Over an extended period of time, high blood pressure affects the Vascular System and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels.  Hypertension erodes the lining of blood vessels, making them less resilient. It can also cause plaque to be deposited in arteries, which narrows their passageway.  The major ways in which hypertension affects the vascular system include:

  • Endothelial dysfunction - The sheer force of the blood pounding away at the inner lining of blood vessels causes damage, leaving them unable to perform their biochemical functions.  Consequently, blood vessels no longer dilate and constrict properly, platelets begin to clump together, blood clots form, inflammation sets in and blood vessel leakage increases.

  • Atherosclerosis - As a natural process of aging, the lining of blood vessels suffer more and more damage and plaque begins to accumulate on the walls of the arteries.  Additionally, arteries become thick, fiber-fouled, and calcified... narrowing their passageway and making them less resilient.  Although this process happens naturally as you begin to age, it is accelerated by high blood pressure.

  • Aortic aneurysm is another serious condition that can be caused by high blood pressure.  The constant pounding of blood through the body's largest artery (the aorta) can eventually cause it to split lengthwise from the inside to the outside.  Whenever high blood pressure affects the aorta to the extent of rupturing it, death could occur in less than an hour due to massive internal bleeding.

Effects of High Blood Pressure on the Heart

High blood pressure affects the heart in two major ways - by overworking it (leading to heart failure) and by clogging up its arteries (leading to heart attack).

  • Heart failure - High blood pressure causes the heart to work much harder than it normally should.  Under pressure from this increased workload, it gradually becomes enlarged and stiffer (cardiomegaly).  This makes the heart less efficient and soon it becomes weak, flabby, and unable to cope with the demands of the body.  Typically, high blood pressure affects the left side of the heart, resulting in shortness of breath, prolonged circulation time, water retention, and fatigue.

  • Coronary artery disease is a condition in which there is a build-up of plaque in the heart's own arteries.  This is caused by too much bad cholesterols (LDL) and low levels of good cholesterols (HDL).  Most patients with hypertension have low levels of HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterols and high levels of total cholesterols, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein).  This causes plaque to build up, narrowing the passageway of the arteries.  As blood continues to pound away at the artery walls, you may eventually be the victim of angina (suffocating pain in the chest, shoulder, or arm) or a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Effects of High Blood Pressure on the Brain

High blood pressure damages the brain and is a major cause of disability and the leading cause of stroke.  It damages the lining of the arteries in the brain and causes plaque to build-up in them.  The damaged lining of the arteries provide a perfect site for plaque build-up and formation of blood clots.

A stroke can happen in one of three ways:

  1. An artery in the brain can become completely choked, severely restricting the flow of blood,

  2. A free-floating clot can block an artery, or

  3. An artery in the brain can be ruptured.

All three can cause the brain to be deprived of oxygen, resulting in the death of brain tissue in that area of the brain.

Effects of High Blood Pressure on the Eyes

Hypertension affects the eyes in the same way it does other organs.  The effects of hypertension on the eyes can be devastating, if left untreated.  The excess force caused by the pounding of blood damages the lining of the small arteries that supply blood to the retina (the membrane inside the eye that receives images formed by the lens and sends them to the brain).

This causes narrowing and thickening of the arteries, and decreases blood supply to the retina.  Eventually, tiny ruptures can occur in capillaries that supply blood to the retina, fat deposits can accumulate, and optic nerve can swell.  If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

As outlined above, the effects of high blood pressure can be quite extensive.  High blood pressure affects vital organs of the body and can lead to serious health consequences, including death.  It is therefore, extremely important to control high blood pressure before it causes significant damage to organs.

Having regular medical check-ups, eating a healthy diet (low in sodium and fat), regular exercises and following the advice of your health care provider are essential components to minimizing the harmful effects of high blood pressure.

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