What is Atherosclerosis and How Is it Related to High Blood Pressure?
One of the most serious health problems related to untreated high blood pressure is atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up in the arteries. When those blockages occur in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, the end result is called coronary artery disease.
People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop coronary artery disease, because high blood pressure puts added force against the artery walls. Over time, this extra pressure can damage the arteries, making them more vulnerable to the narrowing and plaque buildup associated with atherosclerosis. The narrowed artery limits or blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle, depriving the heart of oxygen.
When the process is advanced enough, patients can experience angina, or chest pain, when they exert themselves. The hardened surface of the artery can also encourage the formation of small blood clots, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke.
What Are the Symptoms of Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis usually has no symptoms until the narrowed coronary arteries severely restrict blood flow to the heart. At this point, you may feel chest pain because not enough blood is reaching your heart, especially while you are exerting yourself or are under stress.
What Is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is permanent damage to the heart muscle caused by a sudden loss of blood flow to the heart muscle. A heart attack occurs when a clot or spasm blocks an already narrowed coronary artery so that blood flow is severely reduced or completely interrupted. Left without oxygen, the portion of the heart muscle served by the blocked artery is injured.