Here’s How High Blood Pressure Can Affect Your Lungs

High blood pressure can definitely affect the heart, but most people don’t realize that it actually has a negative impact on many other parts of your body, too. Blood flows throughout your entire body, so high blood pressure affects every vital organ in some way. Specifically, hypertension can cause some serious lung problems.

human lungs

High blood pressure can affect your lungs. | Natali_Mis/iStock/Getty Images

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure affects one in three Americans. It occurs when the pressure between your blood and your artery walls (through which the blood travels) is greater than it should be. High blood pressure can be caused by genetics but is commonly caused by an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. When the blood isn’t properly filtered, it becomes more difficult for it to pass through the artery walls. Your blood pressure increases, and the artery walls thicken as a result of working harder to pass the blood through. If they thicken too much, they cause a blockage, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure can also cause pulmonary hypertension

Another form of hypertension is pulmonary hypertension, which affects your lungs. It occurs when the arteries in the lungs become blocked. When these arteries, known as pulmonary arterioles, become blocked, the heart then has to work harder and harder to push blood through them. Over time, the heart muscle begins to weaken. Pulmonary hypertension can be fatal if your heart muscle weakens and eventually fails.

High blood pressure doesn’t typically cause symptoms, but pulmonary hypertension may show symptoms after a while. Shortness of breath is the most common symptom, but dizziness and chest pain might also be present. You might feel fatigued and eventually start to notice swelling in your ankles, known as edema. If you notice any of those symptoms or anything strange with your heart beat, tell your doctor immediately.

Heart failure and arrhythmias can result from pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension can lead to death if left untreated. It can cause the heart to overwork itself, ending in heart failure. But it may also cause an irregular beat, known as an arrhythmia. High blood pressure can also lead to clots. Depending on where the blood clot is, it may be fatal or require amputation to fix if left untreated. The causes of pulmonary hypertension vary and can sometimes be genetic or arise from a pre-existing heart condition, such as something you were born with. But it often stems from a poor diet and poor exercise habits.

Avoid high blood pressure through diet and exercise

The best way to keep yourself healthy is through a lifetime of forming healthy eating and exercise habits. Stick with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoid foods high in sodium (anything too salty). Sodium is necessary for the body to function, but too much of it can cause the kidneys to malfunction. Since the kidneys filter your blood, a problem with them means your blood isn’t being properly filtered. This can lead to high blood pressure. Make sure to get a significant amount of exercise each week. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise to keep your heart healthy.

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