Hypertension or elevated blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) and the single most important risk factor for stroke.
According to World heart federation, there are at least 970 million people worldwide suffering from elevated blood pressure.[i]
Hypertension or elevated blood pressure occurs, when the systolic blood pressure is above 140 mmHg or/and the diastolic pressure is above 90 mmHg. But how does elevated blood pressure relate to cardiovascular diseases? The tiny muscles in the arterial walls manage the pressure, i.e. pushing the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. If the blood pressure is high, muscles in the arteries fight back, they grow bigger and the arterial walls become thicker. The narrowed arteries can burst or become blocked. The blockage starves the extremity – which is dependent on the blood from that artery – of energy and oxygen and consequently causes the death of that area.[ii] The presence of clogged arteries in the extremities where blood has great difficulty getting through fat deposits, cholesterol, and other substances that are on arterial walls is called Peripheral Arterial Disease.
What can we do to prevent Peripheral Arterial Disease, or more importantly, what can we do to avoid hypertension?
To avoid the risk for PAD as a consequence of hypertension, it is crucial to keep our blood pressure in check. Even though it can be controlled by using anti-hypertensive medications, they may worsen some of the PAD symptoms and damage the body. [iii] We should take care of our bodies and try leading a healthy lifestyle by becoming more active, having a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy, normal weight.
We should keep in mind that hypertension is just one of the many cardiovascular risk factors, along with smoking, diabetes and being overweight. Therefore, seemingly small changes, such as giving up smoking or lowering our body weight by becoming more active can help with keeping our blood pressure stable. ABI measurement plays the crucial role in diagnosis for PAD. It should be measured in all patients with elevated blood pressure in order to avoid PAD-related complications and other cardiovascular diseases.
[i] World-heart-federation.org. (2017). Cardiovascular disease risk factors – Hypertension | World Heart Federation. [online] Available at: http://www.world-heart-federation.org/cardiovascular-health/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/hypertension/ [Accessed 15 May 2017].
[ii] Bloodpressureuk.org. (2017). Blood Pressure: Your arteries and high blood pressure. [online] Available at: http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/BloodPressureandyou/Yourbody/Arteries [Accessed 15 May 2017].
[iii] Lane, D. and Lip, G. (2013). Treatment of hypertension in peripheral arterial disease. Cochrane.