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High Blood Pressure and Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Cross section of artery with arrows showing pressure on artery walls from inside.Blood pressure measures the force of blood against artery walls. High blood pressure (hypertension) can damage arteries and put you at risk for peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is a disease of arteries in the legs. If you have PAD, it’s likely that arteries in other parts of your body are diseased, too. That puts you at high risk for heart attack and other heart diseases. Read on to learn how high blood pressure can lead to PAD and affect your health.

How can high blood pressure lead to peripheral arterial disease?

High blood pressure promotes plaque formation. Plaque is a waxy material made up of cholesterol and other particles that can build up in artery walls. When there is too much plaque, your arteries can become narrowed and restrict blood flow. If high blood pressure isn’t controlled, this makes it more likely for you to develop PAD and other heart problems. But high blood pressure can be controlled with exercise, weight loss, dietary changes, and medication.

What happens if blood pressure isn’t controlled?

  • For every 20 mmHg systolic (top number) or 10 mmHg diastolic (bottom number) increase in your blood pressure, your risk for death from heart disease or stroke doubles.

  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure increases your risk for diabetes complications.

What happens if blood pressure is controlled?

Lowering your blood pressure and keeping it low can:

  • Reduce your risk for stroke

  • Reduce your risk for heart attack 

  • Reduce your risk for dying of heart disease 

  • Reduce your risk for diabetes complications

Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 3/24/2014
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