How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to a Heart Attack

Damage can build over time

When blood pressure is high for too long, it can damage the walls of blood vessels, causing them to develop tiny tears. To fix these damaged areas, the body sends special cells that stick to the site. Over time, substances like cholesterol and fats may also build up at these damaged spots, forming plaque.

As plaque slowly builds, a process called atherosclerosis, it can make the inside of the arteries narrower and block the flow of blood to the heart. Blood flow can also become blocked if the plaque ruptures or breaks off and forms a clot. When blood flow is blocked (by either plaque buildup or a clot), that part of the heart doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. When this happens, it’s called a heart attack

Watch what happens during a heart attack.

heart attack

If you think 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 lightheadedness 

If you have one or more of these warning signs, call 911 immediately, even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack. Ambulance staff can begin treatment as soon as they arrive, which may be sooner than if driven in a private vehicle. People with chest pain who arrive by ambulance may also receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.

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

Support that lifts you up

Our online community of patients, survivors and caregivers is here to keep you going no matter the obstacles. We’ve been there, and we won’t let you do it alone.

HBP Survivor Story Videos