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High Blood Pressure and Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Blood pressure measures the force of blood against your artery walls. High blood pressure (hypertension) can harm your arteries. It also puts you at risk for peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is a disease of arteries in the legs that causes poor blood flow. 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.

What are the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease?

The most common symptom of PAD is pain or cramping in the lower legs or calves with walking that goes away with rest. This can progress to more severe pain that occurs without walking or leads to ulcers on the feet. If you have any of these symptoms, you should let your doctor know the next time you see them.

High blood pressure defined

Your blood pressure is too high if it is 140/90 mmHg or higher and you have no other risk factors. It is also too high if it is 130/80 mmHg or higher and you have added risk factors such as age (older than 65), or have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or known cardiovascular disease such as stroke, past heart attack, coronary artery disease, or heart failure.

How can high blood pressure lead to peripheral arterial disease?

Having high blood pressure makes it easier for plaque to form. Plaque is a waxy material made up in part of cholesterol. It can build up in your artery walls. As plaque builds up, your arteries can become narrowed. This limits blood flow. If high blood pressure isn’t controlled, you are more likely to have PAD and heart problems. But high blood pressure can be controlled with exercise, weight loss, dietary changes, and medicine.

What happens if blood pressure isn’t controlled?

You double your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke each time your blood pressure rises:

  • 20 mmHg in the top number

  • 10 mmHg in the bottom number

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

  • Heart attack 

  • Dying from heart disease 

  • Diabetes complications 

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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