Hypertension and Heart Attacks

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, can cause lasting damage. Most people do not realize how serious this condition may be. It can cause strokes or heart attacks. While there are stem cell therapies that may be useful to treat strokes or heart attacks, the most important intervention is prevention.

What is high blood pressure?

Hypertension is when the force of blood running through your arteries is too high. It can cause lasting damage to the walls of these vessels. Over time, this damage can change how blood flows to organs and therefore cause damage to the organs themselves.

What causes High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure can be caused by many different things. It is divided into 2 categories: primary hypertension, and secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension is caused by another medical condition. For example, certain kidney conditions could cause secondary hypertension.

Primary hypertension is more common. It is any hypertension that is not caused by another medical condition. Primary hypertension does not have one single known cause. Rather, doctors and scientists believe there are many factors of primary hypertension. These could include plaque in your vessels, how your body adapts to high salt diets, sedentary lifestyles, genetics, and psychological stress.

What are the symptoms?

High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” for a reason. Many people do not feel any symptoms at all. They feel perfectly normal until some of their organs are affected.

How is hypertension diagnosed?

Blood pressure is measured at the doctor’s office using a cuff that normally wraps around a patient’s upper arm. The patient should be sitting quietly for 5 minutes before it is taken, refrain from talking or moving during the measurement, and keep feet planted on the ground. The arm with the cuff should be supported, normally on the patient’s lap, the table, or by the healthcare professional. The doctor or nurse inflates the cuff and can measure the
pressure by feeling and listening to the pulse. They’ve been trained to notice when the sounds of the pulse appear and disappear based on the pressure of the cuff. The units are millimeters of mercury (mmHg), a common unit of pressure.

There are two major academies of physicians that decide on how high is too high. They are the American College of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association. They base their guidelines on the risks associated with different blood pressures. If they notice that higher blood pressures correlate with future cardiovascular events, then they decide that blood  pressures should be below that value on average. The updated guidelines from 2017 are below.

Category Systolic Blood Pressure Diastolic Blood Pressure
Normal <120 <80
Elevated 120-129 <80
Stage 1 Hypertension 130-139 80-89
Stage 2 Hypertension >140 >90


Why does high blood pressure matter?

High blood pressure damages the body over time. Since people do not experience many symptoms, they are often unaware that the damage is going on. The consequences of hypertension can include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, and peripheral artery disease. It is obvious that some of these conditions may cause death.

What can I do about it?

Once diagnosed with high blood pressure, patients have many options. These include lifestyle alterations, like diet and exercise, and medications. The most effective way to decrease blood pressure is through diet and exercise. The recommended diet and exercise to lower high blood pressure is 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week and the DASH diet. The DASH diet is a low sodium diet, ideally less than 1500mg of sodium a day in the average adult. That does not mean cutting out the table salt. In fact, most sodium in the Western diet comes
from processed foods. Common high-sodium foods include restaurant food, pre-packaged soups, condiments, canned goods, and tomato sauces.

There are many different medications that patients can take. It is important to speak with a doctor to help you choose which ones are right for the individual. This is highly dependent on other health conditions. For example, people with diabetes may benefit from Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors, a class of medications, to help them protect their kidneys. Some doctors may even prescribe medications in combination, depending on the
case. Most medications have a very low side effect profile. For example, ACE inhibitors may cause a dry cough. Others may cause dizziness if the dose is too high. Many people have no side effects from their medications.

What are other options to treat cardiovascular disease and consequences of high blood pressure?

In addition to the treatments above, new research is being done on stem cell treatments and their impact on cardiovascular health. In next week’s post, we will explore the current research of stem cells on cardiovascular disease.


Hypertension can cause serious consequences. Some of these consequences, like heart attack and stroke, are difficult to treat. Current research on the use of stem cells to treat these conditions is ongoing. Here at the Stem Cells Transplant Institute, we use new technology to be innovative in healthcare. If you are interested in learning more about how you can use this technology for your own health goals, please contact our institute today.