Cardiac Arrythmias. High blood pressure increases the risk for cardiac arrhythmias (disturbances and irregularities in heartbeats). Arrhythmias include atrial fibrillation, premature ventricular contractions, and ventricular tachycardia.
About two-thirds of people who suffer a first stroke have moderate elevated blood pressure (160/95 mm Hg or above). Hypertensive people have up to 10 times the normal risk of stroke, depending on the severity of the blood pressure in the presence of other risk factors. Hypertension is also an important cause of silent cerebral infarcts, which are blockages in the blood vessels in the brain (mini-strokes) that may predict major stroke or progress to dementia over time.
Diabetes and Kidney Disease
Diabetes. High blood pressure, and some of the medications used to treat it, can increase the risk for developing diabetes. There are strong biologic links between insulin resistance (with or without diabetes) and hypertension. It is unclear if one condition causes the other.
People with diabetes or chronic kidney disease need to reduce their blood pressure to 130/80 mm Hg or lower to protect the heart and help prevent other complications common to both diseases. Up to 75% of cardiovascular problems in people with diabetes may be due to hypertension.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for type 2 diabetes in all patients with blood pressure higher than 135/80 mm Hg.
End-Stage Kidney Disease. High blood pressure causes 30% of all cases of end-stage kidney disease (medically referred to as end-stage renal disease, or ESRD). Only diabetes leads to more cases of kidney failure. Patients with diabetes and hypertension need to be monitored very closely for the development of kidney disease.
Isolated systolic hypertension may pose a particular risk for dementia (memory loss).
Review Date: 04/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.