High Blood Pressure Could Be Destroying Your Liver: Here’s How

It’s no secret that high blood pressure can seriously affect your body. If your numbers rise above 140/90, your doctors have certainly mentioned that it’s time to take better care of your body. With hypertension, your blood is being forcefully pushed through your blood vessel walls, causing your heart to work extra hard. This is not just putting your heart in overdrive, but it’s also slowly damaging the blood vessels, too, which can lead to strokes, vision loss, or kidney failure.

There’s another type of blood pressure that can greatly affect your liver function, and that’s portal hypertension. Here’s what it is, what causes it, and how you can stop it.

What happens to your liver when you have high blood pressure?

Photo of a liver within a woman's body

Photo of a liver within a woman’s body | Tharakorn/Getty Images

You may not think about your liver too much, but it actually serves the ultra important purpose of filtering your blood that comes from your digestive tract. Not only that, but MedicineNet.com notes it also makes vital nutrients and is a key organ in helping you properly digest food. Because of everything it does, it requires a lot of blood — and it gets that blood supply via the veins in your portal system. The portal system also carries blood to your stomach, intestine, and spleen.

You can actually have high blood pressure just in your portal system. This can occur if you’ve sustained liver damage and can no longer receive proper blood flow to the liver, WebMD notes. The increased blood pressure can then lead to impaired liver function or life-threatening swollen veins in your esophagus, stomach, or rectum.

Symptoms of portal hypertension you need to know

man sitting on a bed clutching his stomach

Man sitting on a bed clutching his stomach | iStock/Getty Images

What’s most concerning about this type of hypertension is that blood pressure within the portal system isn’t measured like your overall blood pressure is, MedicineNet.com notes. So for this reason, you should be aware of any symptoms that may alert you of an issue.

If you have any scarring or cirrhosis of the liver, this can cause portal hypertension to occur. Additionally, blood clots in any veins in this area and some infections can also increase your risk.

As for symptoms, WebMD notes you should be wary of any blood in your stool or vomiting blood. This could signal that a vein has ruptured in your portal system. Additionally, having low platelet levels could also signal something is off in this part of your body. And feeling extra forgetful (in addition to other signs of liver damage) is another symptom of poor liver function.

How you can protect yourself from portal hypertension

Senior patient talking to a doctor

Senior patient talking to a doctor | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Like regular hypertension, there are many lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of portal hypertension. Here’s what’s recommended by Healthline and WebMD:

Get regular exercise:

Are you getting enough exercise? While you may feel like you’re too busy to hit the gym, you should still follow the recommended fitness guideline. The Mayo Clinic explains you should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in per week (this can be as simple as going for multiple walks). Or, you can get 75 minutes of more intense aerobic activity. The choice is yours — but either way, it’s great for both your normal blood pressure and in preventing portal hypertension.

Eat healthier:

For both regular and portal hypertension, it’s wise to keep your sodium intake to a minimum. In addition, you should ditch any fried, sugary, and packaged favorites that are staples in your diet. Stick to fresh produce, lean meats, whole grains, and leafy greens to protect your body. It’s also not a bad idea to add in some liver-cleansing foods to your diet such as grapefruits, walnuts, or garlic.

Avoid all alcohol and stop smoking:

When you’re dealing with any potential liver issues, keeping your alcohol consumption to a minimum is ideal. Alcohol makes it more difficult for your body to do its normal digestion routines, and it can also cause your body to not take in as many nutrients. And if you already have any scarring on your liver, alcohol will just make it worse.

As for smoking, it’s well-known how bad cigarettes are for your entire body and blood pressure. Quit now if you haven’t already.

Ask your doctor about decompression procedures or medication:

When all else fails, you may have to have a medical intervention to treat portal hypertension. There are multiple procedures that can be performed that can reduce the pressure in your portal veins. Or, for a less invasive route, your doctor may put you on a hypertension medication if you’re exhibiting symptoms.

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