Q. Glen, How Damaging is High Blood Pressure?
A. Hypertension's consequences can be serious if not treated early.
Hypertension operates with great stealth. Although it seldom produces symptoms, the intense pounding of blood gradually damages the artery walls. Small arteries are especially vulnerable. The walls respond by thickening and losing their elasticity and strength. As a result, less blood can pass through them, depriving surrounding tissues of oxygen and nutrients. The vessel walls are also more prone to rupture. Eventually, hypertension damages not just the blood vessels themselves, but also the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes. These are the "target organs" of hypertension — those most likely to be affected by the disease.
The longer you have hypertension, the greater your chances of developing target-organ damage and, consequently, major diseases such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and eye damage.
African Americans are particularly at risk: Not only are they more likely to develop hypertension, but they are also more apt to suffer from its complications. African Americans with hypertension have higher rates of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes compared with whites with hypertension. African Americans are also more likely to die as a result of hypertension than whites are.Reference: Heart Health
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