According to the American heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of disease-related death. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two major risk factors that contribute to the development of heart disease. Many patients who are at risk of developing heart disease or stroke take prescription medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
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High Blood Pressure
An increased blood pressure can be attributed to higher blood volume, increased cardiac output, or an increase in arterial resistance. As a result of higher blood pressures, the heart must work harder to supply bloodflow to the rest of the body. Prolonged exposure to higher blood pressures places additional strain on the heart and can weaken heart muscle.
High cholesterol occurs when increased amounts of cholesterol and other lipids are found within the bloodstream. Since cholesterol, along with platelets, are major components of blood clots, patients who have high cholesterol are at increased risk for the development of clots that can occlude the flow of blood to vital organs including the heart and brain.
Long-term exposure to the shearing forces of higher blood pressures can cause damage to the inner linings of arterial blood vessels. The damage can attract the accumulation of platelets and lipids that can form plaques and clots within the arteries that occlude blood flow. When this process occurs in arteries that supply the heart, patients may experience angina or a heart attack as heart muscle cells are deprived of blood and oxygen.
In some instances, blood clots that form within arteries may dislodge and occlude smaller blood vessels downstream. When this occurs in blood vessels that supply the brain, patients may experience an ischemic stroke. High blood pressure also places patients at risk of experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke as blood vessels within the brain become susceptible to bursting from higher blood pressures. Patients should speak to a physician about their concerns regarding the treatment of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.