Many individuals with hep C experience a variety of comorbid conditions, including high blood pressure. Comorbid conditions are conditions that are occurring at the same time as one another. If an individual has hepatitis C and high blood pressure at the same time, these are considered comorbid.
To get a better understanding of the hepatitis C community, we conducted our 2018 Hepatitis C in America survey. Of those who took the survey, 35% said they had both hepatitis C and high blood pressure. In addition to the survey, some studies have shown that hepatitis C and high blood pressure often go along with one another, although the exact reason for this is unknown.1
What is high blood pressure?
In order for our bodies to function, we need to control and balance a variety of things. Some of these include hormones, energy, temperature, and blood pressure, among others. The heart pumps out blood that needs to travel all over in order to give oxygen and nutrients to our entire body. In order to do this, the body sends out many signals to keep our blood pressure at or below 120/80 mm Hg (a measurement often taken by a healthcare provider). When a person has high blood pressure, their blood is pushing too hard on the walls of the tubes carrying it around. These tubes are called blood vessels, and they often expand or contract to help keep the blood pressure in our bodies within a normal range. When someone has high blood pressure, the body is unable to keep its pressure in check and pressures may rise to 160/100 mm Hg or higher.2,3
High blood pressure is also called hypertension. Over time, high pressures in the blood vessels can lead to damage. Damaged blood vessels can then develop plaques or hardenings made out of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). These plaques can shrink the open spaces in the blood vessels further, increasing blood pressure even more. This is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis and blood pressure can keep getting worse, if not treated or managed properly, until they potentially impact the functioning of major organs like the heart, brain, or kidneys.2
What causes high blood pressure?
In some cases of high blood pressure, the cause is unknown. In other cases, it may be the result of a medication or another condition, such as a thyroid or kidney issue. Certain factors can increase an individual’s risk of developing high blood pressure.
Family history of high blood pressure
Lack of physical activity
Poor diet or a diet high in fat, cholesterol, or salt
So far, the high blood pressure discussed in this article affects the whole body and is sometimes called arterial hypertension. Another kind of high blood pressure, called portal hypertension, begins in the liver. Portal hypertension often comes along with hepatitis C because of the virus’ impact on the liver. Cirrhosis of the liver as a result of hep C can impact or press down on the portal vein. The portal vein delivers blood from the intestines to the liver. When it is impacted, blood pressure can build up and enlarged veins called varices can develop across other organs to compensate for the portal vein’s blockage. These varices can bleed easily, causing their own set of problems outside of arterial hypertension. If you are concerned you may be at risk for portal hypertension, talk with your healthcare provider.4
How is high blood pressure treated?
High blood pressure often has no obvious symptoms that come along with it. This is why it’s important to check in regularly with your healthcare provider to have your blood pressure monitored. It’s also important to take any medications as instructed and to keep up with other lifestyle changes that your provider recommends. Some of these treatment options and lifestyle changes include:3
Medications (like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, or diuretics)
Dietary changes such as reducing salt and/or alcohol intake
Starting a weight loss plan, if needed
Younossi ZM, Stepanova M, et al. Associations of chronic hepatitis C with metabolic and cardiac outcomes. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 5 Feb 2013; 37(6). Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/apt.12234. Accessed November 17, 2018.
What is High Blood Pressure? American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/what-is-high-blood-pressure. Published October 31, 2016. Accessed November 17, 2018.
What is High Blood Pressure? American Academy of Family Physicians: familydoctor.org. https://familydoctor.org/condition/high-blood-pressure/. Published October 27, 2017. Accessed November 17, 2018.
Portal Hypertension. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4912-portal-hypertension. Published November 16, 2017. Accessed November 17, 2018.