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High Blood Pressure - What Happens

Healthy arteries have smooth inner walls. Your blood flows through them without a problem. The blood vessels stay strong and flexible.

But when you have high blood pressure, blood flows through your arteries with too much force, even though you can't feel it. Over time, this pressure damages the walls of your arteries camera.gif. They aren't smooth anymore. They get rough spots on them where fat and calcium start to build up. This buildup is called plaque (say "plak").

Plaque is part of atherosclerosis, sometimes called "hardening of the arteries." Over time, the plaque narrows the artery and blocks blood flow through it.

Atherosclerosis makes your arteries narrower. It also makes them stiffer. Blood can't flow through them as easily. This lack of good blood flow starts to damage some of the organs in your body.

This damage doesn't happen all at once. It happens slowly over time. But you can't tell that it's happening, because you don't feel anything. It can lead to:

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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