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Hypertension and High Cholesterol: How Are They Connected?



Early-life hypertension and LDL cholesterol can impact your future heart health. Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at the proper levels as a young adult can minimise the risk of heart disease, heart failure and stroke later in life.

Your heart and blood arteries can be affected more quickly when your cholesterol and blood pressure levels are increased even if they are just mildly elevated. They can eventually lead to heart attacks, strokes and other issues like kidney failure and vision loss if hypertension and cholesterol treatment is not done on time. 

What Does Hypertension Mean?

Blood flowing through the body's vessels naturally exerts pressure on the vessel walls. Pressure is essential to carry oxygen-rich blood safely throughout the body.

Blood pressure measures artery wall pressure. Healthcare workers measure blood pressure to ensure that it is within a safe range for blood to move throughout your body. ‘Hypertension’ is the term used for elevated blood pressure. Untreated hypertension can result in a heart problem, stroke, blindness or kidney failure. In addition, some individuals with extremely high blood pressure may have headaches and breathing difficulty.

What Does It Mean To Have High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol is the influence of an excessive amount of waxy material derived from fats in the blood. While some fat in the blood is normal and beneficial, excessive cholesterol can be detrimental to one's health.

Plaque refers to the accumulation of cholesterol and other substances on the inside walls of blood vessels. The plaque can block blood flow, either partially or completely throughout your body.

High cholesterol is a critical cardiovascular disease risk factor. So your doctor can test your blood to check your cholesterol level and see if you are more likely to get heart disease.

Potential Health Hazards

High cholesterol and hypertension lead to atherosclerosis, which causes strokes and heart attacks. Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of plaque within the blood arteries.

Among the complications of atherosclerosis are:

  • Cardiovascular atherosclerosis: It is the development of plaque in the heart-feeding arteries, resulting in heart attacks, cardiac failure, and death.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Plaque development in the arteries of the legs can lead to claudication, which is stiffness in the legs that is eased only by resting them. These blockages can cause limb ischemia, which causes non-healing injuries that may require amputation.
  • Carotid atherosclerosis: Plaque in the internal carotid artery of the neck can obstruct blood circulation, break off theflow to the brain, causing a stroke.
  • Mesenteric ischemia: Plaque formation in the blood arteries supplying the gut can result in ‘gut ischemia’, causing pain and weight loss.

What Does Happen To Your Arteries When You Have High Cholesterol?

Blood vessels can be damaged, and plaque in the arteries can form due to high cholesterol levels. As a result, people with high cholesterol have a higher chance of getting heart disease and are more likely to have sudden problems like a heart attack or stroke.

What Does Happen To Your Arteries When You Have High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension can cause damage to your arteries by causing them to be stiff and brittle, reducing the oxygenated blood supply to your heart and other vital organs, including your brain, kidneys and eyes.

What Is The Connection Between Hypertension And High Cholesterol?

Both elevated blood pressure and cholesterol are risk factors for peripheral artery disease. Blockages or narrowings of the arteries in the extremities and limbs are the root causes of peripheral artery disease. If hypertension and cholesterol is left untreated, the peripheral arterial disease can cause heart attacks, strokes, amputations and death.

High blood pressure for an extended period (more than 120/80) can cause the arteries to become less elastic. It can also stimulate plaque accumulation in the artery walls, increasing the risk of blockages. High cholesterol levels may lead to plaque production and obstruction of peripheral arteries.

Preventive Measures To Avoid Hypertension And Cholesterol

Some medications are successful at controlling both hypertension and cholesterol. You can also change your lifestyle to help your circulatory system and protect yourself from harmful effects by: 

  • Quitting smoking
  • Making an effort to be physically active for at least half an hour a day, with strength training at least twice a week
  • Eating foods high in fibre (such as fruits and vegetables) and nutritious fats (like fish and nuts) if you want to maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoiding excessive high-cholesterol foods, fatty foods, sodium and sugar

How Can The Risk Of High Cholesterol And Hypertension Be Reduced?

  • Dietary modifications: You can control your cholesterol levels by changing your diet. Eat less foods that are high in sugar, saturated fat and trans fat and more foods high in fibre and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale. Reducing your sodium and alcohol intake and increasing the potassium content in your diet can help lower blood pressure.
  • Exercise: Aerobic exercise lowers LDL ('bad') cholesterol and raises HDL ('good') cholesterol. Regular physical exercise and a healthy diet can both help lower blood pressure.
  • Weight maintenance: Being overweight can raise hypertension and cholesterol levels. Maintaining a healthy weight is one way to alleviate this problem.
  • Medication: A change in diet and exercise alone may not be sufficient to lower cholesterol or blood pressure in some people. In addition to following a healthy lifestyle, medication may be prescribed for hypertension and cholesterol treatment. Taking proper medication reduces inflammation, preventing or slowing the advancement of plaque accumulation in blood vessels. Hypertension is treated with anti-hypertensive medicine.

Closing Thoughts 

Even if you do not have hypertension in addition to the high cholesterol, you are still at risk for heart disease and stroke. Check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels periodically, and adopt a healthy lifestyle for hypertension and cholesterol treatment. If necessary, you should take medication to lower hypertension and cholesterol if advised by a doctor. 

Diabetes mellitus further adds to the risk along with hypertension and cholesterol.

Regular testing of Diabetes mellitus, cholesterol levels and other factors that contribute to heart diseases should thus be recommended.

There are various tests such as Lipid profile screening, full body check-up and blood glucose level testing that can be done as per the doctor’s recommendation. 

Apart from these there are specific tests available to assess the cardiac health and risk of cardiac diseases.

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