Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What is happening to me when my blood pressure is high?


If your doctor has told you that your blood pressure is high, you probably have some questions. You may ask, "How did my blood pressure get high?" and "How dangerous is the condition?" Sometimes it is hard for people to believe that they have a problem at all, especially when they don't feel sick. You may feel this way, since your high blood pressure probably causes no symptoms.

Even if you don't feel sick, it's critical that you receive treatment for your high blood pressure. If you don't, it can cause serious damage to your health. Taking action by making lifestyle changes or taking medicine makes all the difference to your future health, even if you don't feel any different on a day-to-day basis.

Here is what some people have said about having high blood pressure.

"The whole idea that the complications of high blood pressure could shorten your life, could lead to stroke which is an illness that could leave you paralyzed, could affect your whole quality of life. That was my motivation."

Merlyn

"When I realized I would have to make some lifestyle changes I felt somewhat incompetent. I did now know if I could do that. I thought I might be hard wired to eating ice cream and not to exercise. This proved not to be true! I had stopped smoking within a year prior to the diagnosis of my dangerously high blood pressure. So that was one demon I did not have to deal with anymore."

Alice

"My encouragement is to stick to your medication, watch your diet and really exercise - it's a great help! You don't have to worry about not having a long life once you do these things."

Pauline

If you have high blood pressure, your blood vessels narrow. This means your heart must work harder to pump the blood that carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. To understand how this happens, think of your circulatory system as a large garden hose. If you narrow the diameter of the hose, the pressure inside it rises. So, the water pushes through the hose with more force. The smaller the diameter of the hose, the more force it takes to push the same amount of water through the hose.

The same is true with your blood vessels. When your blood vessels narrow, the heart has to pump harder to push the same amount of blood through them. As the heart muscle works harder, it becomes larger and doesn't pump as efficiently. As blood under greater pressure rushes through the smaller blood vessels, it may damage the walls of your blood vessels. This can cause serious health problems.