High blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases the risk of heart disease or stroke. This is because high blood pressure damages the lining of the arteries. Plaque can build up as a result, causing the arteries to narrow.
This article will provide a definition of each condition and explain how they are connected.
It will also look at the symptoms, treatment options, prevention methods, and how a person can monitor their blood pressure.
High blood pressure causes damage to the artery walls. The damage can make the arteries more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which can cause a blockage or reduced blood flow.
If the blockage occurs near the brain or heart, it can lead to either a stroke or heart attack, respectively.
Hypertension, heart disease, and stroke are three different conditions.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when the pressure of blood pushing against a person’s arteries is higher than normal.
Although a person’s blood pressure can rise and fall throughout the day, chronically high blood pressure can lead to several health concerns.
The following readings can indicate a person has elevated or high blood pressure:
- Elevated: A systolic blood pressure of 120–129 mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg.
- Hypertension Stage 1: A systolic blood pressure of 130–139 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure of 80–89 mmHg.
- Hypertension Stage 2: A systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg or higher, or a diastolic blood pressure or 90 mmHg or higher.
Heart disease refers to several different conditions that affect a person’s heart.
There are different types of heart disease, including:
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A stroke occurs when the arteries leading to the brain burst or become blocked. When the brain no longer receives oxygen-rich blood, it can cause brain cells and the arteries to die.
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High blood pressure and heart disease may not present with any symptoms. If a person experiences symptoms of a stroke, they will require urgent medical attention.
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If they do have symptoms, they will likely experience the following:
Severe hypertension can cause:
The symptoms of these include:
- Heart attack: A person may experience:
- Arrhythmia: A person may experience a feeling of fluttering in the chest, also known as palpitations.
- Heart failure: A person with heart failure may experience:
- shortness of breath
- swelling in the feet, legs, ankles, abdomen, or veins of the neck
When a person experiences a stroke, they may have one or more of the
- sudden severe headache with no known cause
- sudden confusion, trouble understanding speech, or trouble speaking
- sudden weakness or numbness in the arm, leg, or face, particularly on one side of the body
- sudden dizziness, loss of balance, difficulty walking, or loss of coordination
- sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Each condition shares some similar risk factors,
- a lack of exercise or activity
- a diet that includes high amounts of salt
- having obesity
- having diabetes
Hypertension is also a risk factor for both stroke and heart disease.
Treatment for high blood pressure can help prevent both heart disease and stroke.
A healthcare professional may recommend taking medications to lower a person’s blood pressure.
There are multiple types of medications that all have slightly different effects on a person’s blood pressure and heart. Some medications a doctor may prescribe
- ACE inhibitors
- calcium channel blockers
- angiotensin II receptor blockers
Blood pressure medications work by:
- relaxing the blood vessels
- blocking nerve activity that restricts the blood vessels
- helping the heart to beat with less force
- helping the body to remove water, which helps lower the water and salt levels in the body
A person can also make lifestyle changes, which include:
- exercising regularly, for at least
150 minutesper week
- eating a healthy diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables
- maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI)
- avoiding or quitting smoking
- eating a low sodium diet
- avoiding alcohol
- managing stress, if possible
- getting enough sleep
Taking the above steps
A person who experiences a heart attack or stroke should seek emergency medical services or call 911. If a person has had a stroke, medical professionals will prescribe medication or perform surgery to stop the bleeding and save the brain tissue.
Treatment for a heart attack will also involve medications and surgery.
Learn more about the treatment options for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke:
A person can keep track of their blood pressure at home and with regular visits to a doctor. They may also visit a pharmacy with a digital blood pressure measurement machine.
Regular blood pressure checks can help ensure treatment is working and help guide decisions on other methods that may help.
Several at-home devices can measure blood pressure. Before using a machine, a person should calibrate it with a doctor.
People who do not want or cannot get a home blood pressure cuff should visit a doctor regularly to measure their blood pressure.
Learn more about checking blood pressure with these articles:
People living with hypertension should regularly consult a doctor to see how medication and lifestyle changes affect their blood pressure.
A person can make adjustments in consultation with their doctor as needed based on how their blood pressure is responding.
A person should contact 911 or emergency services immediately if they experience signs or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Hypertension increases a person’s risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease due to damage to the arteries.
A person can take steps to reduce their risk for any of these conditions, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and reducing stress.
In some cases, a person may need to take blood pressure medications to help prevent high blood pressure and reduce their risk of developing heart disease or stroke.