Blood Pressure – The Silent Killer
What Are the Complications of Raised Blood Pressure?
For many years raised blood pressure may cause no symptoms. Occasionally, raised blood pressure can be associated with headaches and nose bleeds, but usually only when the blood pressure is very high. However, high blood pressure makes the heart and arteries work harder, causing damage over the years. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke at an early age. Fortunately, treatment can reverse most of these effects.
However, raised blood pressure can have devastating consequences by putting extra strain on the system over a long period of time. These complications can include blindness, kidney damage, heart attacks and mini-strokes, as well as full-blown strokes. These complications can come on suddenly with devastating effects.
High blood pressure is, along with cigarette smoking, the most important risk factor for the development of heart disease and stroke. Other risk factors for the development of heart disease and stroke include family history, raised cholesterol and blood fat levels, obesity, lack of exercise, excess alcohol and a diet high in saturated fat and salt. The important thing to note about these risk factors is that they are synergistic rather than additive. This means that they multiply together rather than add together. In other words, if you have three of these risk factors your risk of heart attack or stoke may be many times higher than if you just have two.
Benefits of Treating Raised Blood Pressure
Obviously prevention is better than cure. The aim in detecting and treating raised blood pressure is to bring the pressure back down to normal so as to prevent any long-term strain on the heart or blood vessels, thereby helping to prevent heart disease and stroke. If you have been prescribed medication for high blood pressure, you will usually have to take it for the rest of your life. If you stop the medication your blood pressure will tend to go up again. The good news is that this medication can prevent early ageing of the blood vessels and prevent any additional strain on the heart. There is good evidence that lowering your blood pressure, if it is raised, can significantly reduce your relative risk of both heart attack and stroke.
Can I Stop My Blood Pressure Tablets Once My Blood Pressure Is Back Down to Normal?
No, unfortunately. The decision to treat raised blood pressure is an important one as the treatment is usually lifelong. This is because, if you stop taking the blood pressure tablets, then your blood pressure will usually start to climb up again. Therefore it is very important that the diagnosis is made correctly and that the decision to treat it is a shared one between you and your doctor. By fully understanding the implications of the decision to treat high blood pressure in terms of the benefits of doing so as well as the risks and consequences of not treating your high blood pressure, you are then in a better position to weigh up the benefits of long-term treatment.