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.
Cutting down on salt may help lower your blood pressure. And most Americans need to cut back, because they get more sodium than they should.
The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 2,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day, unless you have high blood pressure or if you are at risk (if you already have hypertension, have diabetes or kidney disease or are African American). That's less than a teaspoon from all your meals and snacks.
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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 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.