Hypertensive and atherosclerotic effects on blood vessels
Everybody knows that hypertensives have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. Not many people stop to think why. What effect does high blood pressure have on our blood vessels? Our hearts? How do they become damaged? How long does it take?
Elevated blood pressure causes mechanical stress on the heart and blood vessels. It damages the inner walls of arteries. Hypertension reduces the elasticity of vessels and increases oxidative stress. Over time, tiny tears in the arterial walls appear. Fatty cells start to adhere to the damaged areas. So does the cholesterol. These adhesions are called atheromas. Over time, they grow into plaque. Plaque sometimes ruptures in places. When that happens, more cells start accumulating at those sites, eventually forming blood clots. This, of course, is what leads to heart attacks and strokes, depending on the location of the blood clots. Some clots (thrombus) are in one location, others (emboli) travel.
What is really scary is that this process of plaque forming begins in childhood. So most of us have it to a degree. Major risk factors for hypertension and atherosclerosis:
Obesity - MAJOR cause of both
Not enough exercise
High saturated dietary fat
Age, gender, family history
Both hypertension and atherosclerosis are known as the silent killers. There are no symptoms until the tissue damage has occured. This sometimes means an ischemic disease - insufficient blood supply - there might be an angina pain, or pain in the calves and leg muscles. Often, the first symptoms are the actual heart attacks and strokes.
Smoking is really bad for damaging the arteries. It raises blood pressure by constricting the arteries. It is toxic to the arterial walls and also worsens the cholesterol levels. Smoking thickens the blood, which is then more likely to clot around the existing plaque.
Hypertension predisposes to, promotes and accelerates atherosclerosis through actions of peptides such as angiotensin and endothelin 1. This happens through an inflammatory mechanism. Inflammation is what connects the hypertension to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis should be viewed as an inflammatory disease.
Patients at risk for atherosclerosis-related diseases are being treated with low dose aspirin and a statin.
These issues are hardly ever mentioned on this board. People should be more aware of them. Please feel free to add to this very basic post.
Last edited by flowergirl2day; 09-22-2007 at 10:19 PM.