Why is high blood pressure bad for you?

People with uncontrolled high blood pressure have 3 to 4 times the risk of developing heart disease and as much as 7 times the risk of suffering a stroke as those with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. It is also one of the three major risk factors for heart attack that a person can do something about. The other two are smoking and high blood cholesterol levels.

When high blood pressure is not discovered and treated, it can cause:

  • The heart to get too muscular, which may lead to heart failure.
  • The heart to get larger, which may lead to heart failure.
  • Aneurysms (bulging or ballooning, much like a bicycle or car tire about to burst) to form in the brain's blood vessels, which may cause a stroke (damage to the brain caused by blocked blood flow or bleeding).
  • Blood vessels in the kidneys to narrow, which may cause kidney failure.
  • Arteries (major blood vessels that lead to the heart) throughout the body to "harden" faster. This is called "atherosclerosis." Hardened arteries or atherosclerosis can cause a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure.

To learn more:

About Heart Failure
(American Heart Association)
Heart Failure
(The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health)
Explains aneuysms in general and provides links where people can find more information.
About Stroke
(The Internet Stroke Center)
High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease
(National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health)
(American Heart Association)

next » How do you know if you have high blood pressure?

Written by: Janice C. May, M.P.A.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Tuesday February 14, 2017 10:53 AM