High Blood Pressure Hypertension (cont.)

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What are the potential risks and complications of untreated high blood pressure?

Complications of hypertension are often referred to as end-organ damage because damage to the organs is the end result of chronic (long duration) high blood pressure.

High blood pressure increases the risk of developing:

  • Heart disease: Increased workload on the heart from pushing against the high blood pressure can cause enlargement of the heart muscle, heart failure, coronary artery disease, and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Kidney disease: High blood pressure damages the filtration system within the kidneys causing proteins to spill out into the urine. These proteins cause further damage to the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis): Increased pressure through the arteries and arterioles causes damage to the inner walls of the blood vessels, resulting in hardened arteries.
  • Increased risk of aneurysms: Increased pressure can also cause stretching or dilation of the blood vessels, which can result in aneurysms.
  • Eye damage: The sensitive tissues within the eyes are prone to damage from high blood pressure.
  • Stroke: Both the hardening of the arteries and the dilation of the blood vessels due to high blood pressure can lead to strokes.

What dietary strategies can help lower high blood pressure?

Dietary changes are often the first line of treatment recommended by your doctor. You may be advised to:

  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Limit fatty foods
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Manage cholesterol
  • Add potassium-rich foods to your diet (unless you are being treated for kidney failure, as potassium rich foods may be harmful to you)

Doctors often recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet created by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which focuses on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean meats.

In addition to dietary modification, quitting smoking is extremely beneficial in managing high blood pressure.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2014

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