What is the Connection Between Hypertension and Atherosclerosis?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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Atherosclerosis is frequently considered a contributing factor in the development of hypertension, or high blood pressure. The arterial narrowing that occurs in the presence of atherosclerosis impairs blood flow, which contributes to the increased pressure within the already compromised artery. Individuals with hypertension and atherosclerosis are considered to possess an increased risk for complications, including stroke, blindness, and organ failure. Considered a manageable condition, individuals with hypertension and atherosclerosis are generally treated with the implementation of dietary and lifestyle changes combined with medication to lower blood pressure and reduce the buildup of arterial plaque.

Arterial narrowing that presents with atherosclerosis is a progressive condition that can severely impair circulation and jeopardize one’s overall health. In the presence of atherosclerosis, blood platelets accumulate within the arterial walls, forming a plaque-like substance that creates a blockage that impairs proper blood circulation. As cellular byproducts pass through the affected arterial passage, they often settle within the compromised arterial tissue, sticking to the plaque and further contributing to the arterial blockage. Substantial blockages can not only impair proper blood flow, but limit the amount of oxygen reaching vital tissues and organs in the affected area, adversely affecting their health and functionality as well. In the event a piece of the hardened plaque breaks loose, it may enter the bloodstream, increasing one’s chance for blood clot formation, heart attack, and stroke.


Hypertension that manifests in the wake of moderate to advanced arterial narrowing is generally formally diagnosed as secondary hypertension. Experiencing symptoms associated with extensive arterial constriction, individuals with hypertension and atherosclerosis usually undergo several diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of their high blood pressure. Those whose blood pressure consistently registers within the range indicative of hypertension, such as diastolic pressure readings above 90 millimeter of mercury (mm HG) and systolic pressure readings above 140 mm HG, may be sent for additional testing. Usually, tests may be performed on the individual’s urine and blood to check for markers indicative of disease or infection, or to rule out other conditions whose symptoms may mimic those associated with hypertension and atherosclerosis. His or her heart function may also be evaluated to determine the overall condition and functionality of the muscle in the presence of impaired blood flow.

In most cases, individuals with hypertension and atherosclerosis will remain asymptomatic, meaning they experience no symptoms at all, for quite some time. Once the arterial constriction severely compromises circulation and triggers consistently high blood pressure, the symptoms that may manifest are deceptively common in their presentation. Generally, individuals with hypertension often experience light-headedness and persistent headaches. Unfortunately, with hypertension and atherosclerosis, consistent symptom presentation indicates that the disease has progressed and may easily become life-threatening.

Those who are diagnosed with hypertension and atherosclerosis are generally instructed to implement immediate dietary and lifestyle changes. To lower one’s blood pressure, weight loss, regular exercise, and healthy eating are usually at the top of the list of initial changes that should be made. Individuals who smoke are often encouraged to quit, and supplemental medications and social support may be made available to ease the cessation. Prescription medications, such as diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and beta blockers, are generally given to reduce sodium and water accumulation, easing arterial constriction and lessening the stress placed on the heart muscle to help lower one’s blood pressure. In order to treat the atherosclerosis, additional medication may be administered to reduce arterial plaque buildup, lessen the risk for blood clot formation, and lower one’s cholesterol.



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