High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can arise from unhealthy lifestyle habits, according to the CDC. Hypertension among Veterans is common, often due to the physical demands of being in service that can make it difficult to exercise and maintain a heart-healthy routine. According to research by the VA, this condition affects more than 37% of the Veteran population – occurring when a blood pressure reading reaches 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
Depending on a Veteran's individual circumstances, hypertension can be considered a primary disability or secondary to a service connected condition, making them eligible for VA disability benefits. NOTE: Already experiencing high blood pressure? Read the blog: 10 foods that can reduce high blood pressure.
Veterans with high blood pressure should be aware of the risks and complications. Here are 5 conditions that can be caused by hypertension:
Over time, hypertension can be a large contributing factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association explains that strain and damage over time from high blood pressure can cause the body's coronary arteries to narrow due to plaque buildup, a slow process called atherosclerosis.
Similar to cardiovascular disease above, hypertension can lead to kidney disease as a result of narrowing arteries around the kidney. When the arteries become damaged, they can't properly deliver blood flow to the kidney – making the kidney unable to filter blood properly. This takes years to develop, so prevention is key.
Veterans are often diagnosed with sleep apnea – one study even revealed over 50% of Veteran participants screened positive for symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is more common in individuals who have hypertension, and also vice versa. The two diseases are closely connected and often co-occurring.
Read the blog: How is sleep apnea rated for VA disability purposes?
By damaging and weakening blood vessel walls, hypertension can lead to stroke if untreated. Blood clots can form, leading to blocked brain arteries that cause stroke. The Stroke Foundation explains that the higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk is for stroke.
Mayo Clinic defines metabolic syndrome as "a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes." Hypertension is among the conditions already, alongside high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Veterans with hypertension need to be aware of their heightened risk for metabolic syndrome, leading to more serious diseases.
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