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High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease

Heart disease is a general term that refers to any disease of the heart. High blood pressure can lead to two major forms of heart disease.

Coronary artery disease occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries) are narrowed or blocked. This narrowing or blockage most often is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits, which is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

High blood pressure increases the risk of atherosclerosis by damaging the lining of the arteries and increasing the likelihood that fatty deposits may form in them. Over time, this can lead to a heart attack.

Hypertensive heart disease occurs when high blood pressure causes the walls of the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) to become thick and stiff, which affects the heart's pumping ability. This may in turn lead to heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.

Your risk for heart disease depends on blood pressure, other risk factors for heart disease, and whether your high blood pressure has caused organ damage.

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Revised April 5, 2013

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