High BP - Dr. Riaz

High blood pressure affects millions of people here in the US and all over the world. So what is hypertension? Let’s think about it like the pressure in a water hose. No matter how high it is, it doesn’t seem like it will affect the hose. With period of time, the wear and tear on the water hose will cause tears on the inside that also causes dirt to build up in the tears. Similarly, think of our arteries which carry blood as water hoses. When there is a tear in the artery, the body heals by forming a blood clot. The blood clot, if it grows will cause the artery to clog, and then you either end up having a heart attack or stroke depending on which artery we are talking about. So that’s why although your blood pressure is high, you might feel totally fine until suddenly there is a tear!

Not every tear is devastating. Sometimes there is a tear and it heals successfully without any bad consequences. Nevertheless, the residual effects of the tear leaves ridges on the inside. It’s not as smooth as it once was. So now more stuff can stick to the sides. What can those be? Blood is carrying all kinds of cholesterol. So the bad cholesterol tends to build up on the inside of the arteries. Just like dirt can build up inside the garden hose. More and more build causes narrowing of the arteries. Not to mention more chances for tears, as the blood doesn’t flow as smoothly as it once did. This subsequently causes more wear and tear leading to more build up. This is one of the mechanisms which leads to atherosclerosis and subsequent events such as heart attack (MI or Myocardial Infarction) or stroke (CVA or TIA).

So if hypertension affects arteries, does it affect the heart as well?
Absolutely! Your heart is a pump. Think about a muscular pump working
harder and harder with every beat. Just like if you went to the gym and
lifted weights. Just like you will bulk up, your heart bulks up as well.
The walls of the heart get thicker and beat stronger initially. The
increase in the wall thickness can affect the mechanics of the pump and
can make it less efficient. Subsequently, the heart muscle can get weak
and hence lead to heart failure. You could ask the question as to how
come working out the heart muscle gets it weaker while as working out in
the gym is good for you. Main difference is that the heart never rests!
Non-stop beating and working harder with a higher resistance (due to
hypertension) causes the deleterious effects.

This is why hypertension is one of the leading causes of congestive heart failure. Millions have hypertension and hence congestive heart failure is the most common admitting diagnosis in the US.

Hope this helps clarify some of the effects of hypertension. Get your blood pressure checked today! Seek medical attention if you have hypertension, as that could save you from having devastating medical consequences as explained above.

Need more information? Head over to the video, where Dr. Sirajuddin explains more in detail!