Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood out to the rest of the body through the arteries. Blood pressure is the measure of the force of the pumped blood against the arterial walls. High blood pressure is called hypertension. Over time, hypertension can damage the arterial walls, which can lead to organ failure, stroke and aneurysm.
High blood pressure can contribute to multiple underlying life-threatening conditions for years before people notice any side effects of hypertension. When the disease becomes advanced, noticeable effects of hypertension might include headaches, dizziness and frequent nosebleeds. Ultimately, many people might begin to suffer memory loss and a decrease in their ability to think clearly or learn new information.
One of the primary effects of hypertension is atherosclerosis, or a hardening and narrowing of arterial walls. When arterial walls narrow, the flow of blood can become restricted or blocked. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, a heart attack will result. When blood is blocked from flowing to the brain, the result is a stroke.
Another of the effects of hypertension can be weakened blood vessels. A weakened blood vessel can bulge, forming an aneurysm, or a spot of increased pressure in a vessel. If the aneurysm forms in a sensitive area of the body, such as the heart, lungs or brain, and then bursts, the consequences can be life-threatening.
Renal failure also can be one of the effects of hypertension. The increased force of high blood pressure can damage the vessels and filters in the kidneys, making it difficult for the kidneys to remove toxins from the body. Hypertension also can damage the delicate vessels of the eyes, leading to blindness if the condition remains untreated.
Over time, as the heart has to work harder to pump blood against the force of increased pressure, one of the effects of hypertension can be a thickening or enlarging of the heart muscle, also know as hypertensive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Some people are able to live with cardiomyopathy for years with no ill effect, but it can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood through the body. This can ultimately cause heart failure, arrhythmia, fluid buildup in the lungs and inflammation of the lining of the heart.