The link between high blood pressure and heart attacks

High blood pressure is the key risk factor for many cardiovascular diseases. Death due to cardiovascular complications such as heart failure, stroke and heart attacks are reported to be higher among hypertensive patients.

Both systolic and diastolic hypertension increases the risk of a heart attack i.e. the higher the pressure, the greater the risk.

Even when other major risk factors such as diabetes, smoking and high blood cholesterol are absent, the increased risk due to hypertension still exists.

This shows that hypertension alone can be a major contributing factor to heart attacks.

How do heart attacks occur?

A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked.

This is usually due to a build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart (coronary arteries).

The interrupted blood flow can destroy or damage part of the heart muscle.

Heart attacks may be presented by a variety of symptoms, the most common being pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms.

But not everyone with heart attacks has the same symptoms or experiences the same severity of symptoms.

High blood pressure and heart attacks

High blood pressure causes excess strain against the coronary artery wall. Over time, this extra pressure can damage the artery lining, making it more prone to plaque buildup and narrowing the artery. This process is known as atherosclerosis.

Blood clots are also more likely to form as arteries harden with plaque. When the coronary artery becomes blocked due to an accumulation of plaque or a blood clot, the flow of blood to the heart muscle is interrupted, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients.

As a result, the damage or death of part of the heart muscle that occurs is called a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Besides pain or discomfort in the chest or arm, heart attacks may also present itself as pain or discomfort in the back, neck or jaw. Other symptoms include nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain or light-headedness.

Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but fortunately many people have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance.

The earliest warning sign may be recurrent chest pain that is triggered by exertion and relieved by rest.

If you experience one or more of these warning signs, seek immediate help, even if you’re not sure if it’s a heart attack.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com. It was reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.