Extremely high blood pressure is a serious condition that often goes undetected, earning it the nickname, “the silent killer.” People can have high blood pressure for years without showing any signs or symptoms of illness, but all the while, the condition could be causing serious harm in the body.
Blood pressure is, literally, the pressure your blood puts on your arteries as it flows through the body. Extremely high blood pressure, or hypertension, is dangerous because it can damage your arteries, which can lead to a host of health problems. According to Mayo Clinic, healthy arteries should be flexible and strong, but hypertension can cause arteries to weaken and narrow, which can limit blood flow throughout the body.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) cautions that high blood pressure is common in older adults and can cause life-threatening conditions, including kidney failure, heart disease, and brain hemorrhaging.
About Brain Hemorrhages
Brain hemorrhage is a generic term for bleeding on the brain, but there is more than one type of brain hemorrhage. Though terms like brain hemorrhage, stroke, and aneurysm are often used interchangeably, there is a difference.
- Brain aneurysms occur when weakened arteries and increased blood pressure cause a blood vessel in the brain to enlarge and “bulge.” Small aneurysms often cause no symptoms and can go undetected, but larger bulges can press on nerves and brain tissue. Mayo Clinic lists a dilated pupil, pain behind one eye, changes in vision, or numbness on one side of the face as signs of an unruptured aneurysm. Brain aneurysms become dangerous when they rupture or leak.
- Hemorrhagic strokes happen when blood vessels burst because of extremely high blood pressure, or when an aneurysm ruptures or leaks. Both these events cause bleeding either around the brain or in the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 13 percent of all strokes.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhages occur when a ruptured or leaking aneurysm or burst artery causes bleeding in the space around the brain, according to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. The first sign of this type of brain bleed is a severe headache. If untreated, subarachnoid hemorrhages can cause loss of consciousness, irregular heartbeat, respiratory arrest, and fatality. Brain damage from this type of hemorrhage can lead to permanent physical impairment and speech problems.
- Intracerebral hemorrhages happen when bleeding occurs inside the brain. This type of hemorrhage causes blood to build up inside the brain, cutting off the surrounding arteries and killing off brain tissue. Like subarachnoid hemorrhages, intracerebral hemorrhages can be fatal or result in brain damage, including problems with movement, speech, and vision.
Symptoms of Aneurysms and Strokes
Extremely high blood pressure can cause both aneurysms and stroke. Mayo Clinic cites a sudden and severe headache as the most significant sign of a ruptured or leaking aneurysm. If you experience this type of headache, you should contact a doctor immediately. Other signs include nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision, neck stiffness, light sensitivity, confusion, and even loss of consciousness.
Signs of a stroke include sudden numbness in the face, arms, or legs, trouble speaking, trouble understanding what others are saying, difficulty walking, headache, and vision problems. If you believe you or someone you know is having a stroke, seek medical attention immediately, even if the symptoms do not last long or seem to go away. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater risk of permanent physical paralysis and/or brain damage.
Managing High Blood Pressure
It is important to monitor blood pressure, especially as you age. In some cases, high blood pressure can be lowered with lifestyle changes, like healthier eating, regular exercise, and weight loss. When this is not enough, a doctor will prescribe medication to treat hypertension.
If you take blood pressure medication, it is important that your doctor know of anything else you take, even vitamins and over-the-counter drugs, as some medications can increase blood pressure or reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
As with all medications, it is important to take blood pressure medications in the correct dose and not to skip a dose. Blood pressure medication also should be taken at the same time each day.
If you are diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure, your treatment is ongoing, and you will continue to work with your doctor to monitor and evaluate your hypertension. If you or a loved one has high blood pressure, it is important to always be aware of any signs of aneurysm or stroke.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Help
When your elderly loved one resides in a nursing home facility, you are putting your trust in their quality of care. You are relying on nursing home staff to monitor your loved one’s health, including administering medications. If your loved one suffered an aneurysm or stroke because of extremely high blood pressure, it could be due to the negligence of the nursing home and its staff. You may want to discuss your loved one’s brain aneurysm or stroke with an attorney.