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How are hypertension, heart disease and stroke related?

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 10, 2023.

Official answer


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving against the walls of your arteries, which are a type of blood vessel. Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries and the amount of blood your heart pumps. When you have high blood pressure it is a sign that your heart is having to work much harder than normal to pump the blood around you body.

High blood pressure can damage and narrow arteries, which can limit the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. This can result in a condition called ischemic heart disease, which can cause chest pain and even lead to a heart attack. Approximately half of all people with untreated high blood pressure will die from ischemic heart disease. High blood pressure can also cause an enlarged left heart and heart failure.

The blood vessels in the brain can also be affected by high blood pressure, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak, or become blocked due to a blood clot. This can result in a stroke, which is a type of brain injury where brain cells die after being starved of oxygen and nutrients. About a third of people with untreated high blood pressure with die from a stroke.

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