How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to a Heart Attack

Damage can build over time

heart attack

The excess strain and resulting damage from high blood pressure causes the coronary arteries serving the heart to slowly become narrowed from plaque — a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances. This slow process is called atherosclerosis.

As arteries harden with plaque, blood clots are more likely to form. When an artery becomes blocked due to plaque buildup or a blood clot, the flow of blood through the heart muscle is interrupted, starving the muscle of oxygen and nutrients. The damage or death of part of the heart muscle that occurs as a result is a heart attack.

Watch what happens during a heart attack.

If you suspect you’re having a heart attack

Pain or pressure in the chest is the most common symptom of a heart attack. Other symptoms include: 

  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Nausea or light-headedness 

If you experience one or more of these warning signs, call 911 immediately, even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack. EMS staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by a vehicle. People with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.

Don’t let high blood pressure cause a heart attack:

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