High blood pressure (HBP) is also known as hypertension. The latter is a misleading term, for it leads people to think that only nervous or hyperactive people develop high blood pressure, which isn’t true. Blood pressure is created by the heart. When it beats, it creates pressure that forces blood through the blood vessels. The blood has the job of picking up oxygen from the heart and transporting it through the body.
Blood pressure is created by two forces: the pressure created by heart beats and the force created by the heart resting between beats. Doctors measure both of these forces when they take a blood pressure reading, which is typically written in the form of a ratio (e.g. 110/80 mmHg). The higher number is the systolic, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The lower number is the diastolic, which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting.
As many people know, anything 140/90 or above is bad news. Such numbers indicate hypertension. Ideally, a patient should have a blood pressure reading below 120/80. Anything between those two numbers is considered indicative of prehypertension. That simply means the patient is at risk of developing full-blown high blood pressure.
Why is High Blood Pressure Bad?
Arteries are made of muscle and a tissue that can stretch like elastic when the heart sends blood through them. If the heart exerts a lot of pressure pumping blood, the arteries have to stretch to accommodate the blood. Constant or chronic high blood pressure eventually stretches the arteries beyond their limits and damages them.
What Can High Blood Pressure Do?
The constant overstretching of the arteries associated with high blood pressure eventually weakens them. That makes the arteries more likely to burst, resulting in conditions like stroke or an aneurysm. The overstretching also causes the arteries to develop tiny tears. While those tears can heal, they do leave behind scar tissue. Both the tears and the scar tissue snare debris like red blood cells or cholesterol.
Trapped blood cells can clump together and form clots. Blood clots can narrow or block arteries. If the blood clot breaks loose, it can travel down the bloodstream and get snared somewhere else, where it impedes blood flow or blocks it altogether. Strokes and heart attacks can result.
A build-up of cholesterol in the artery creates plaque that impedes or blocks blood flow. Again, pieces of plaque can break off, travel down the bloodstream and cause a partial or whole blockage somewhere else. The resulting condition is called atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries,” and it is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease.
The various blockages force the heart to work harder to pump the blood where it needs to go. That can eventually damage the heart and even result in heart failure. In addition, blockages prevent other organs from getting the oxygen they need to function. They consequently develop tissue damage.
Learn More Today
Located in Fort Myers, The Vein Center at Cardiology Consultants of Southwest Florida is here to help you every step of the way in treating your high blood pressure. During your consultation at our office, we can happily answer any questions you may have as we work toward a plan of action for treating your unique case.
Contact us today to schedule your appointment to learn more about high blood pressure causes, symptoms, dangers and treatment options.