Symposium on hypertension: Part III. Sodium and potassium, catecholamines, renin and adrenal steroids as casual factors. Hypertension and atherosclerosis. Clonldlne treatment and the renin axis| Volume 38, ISSUE 6, P786-800, November 23, 1976

Role of hypertension in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease

  • William Hollander
    Address for reprints: William Hollander, MD, Department of Medicine and.Biochemistry,Boston University School of Medicine, 80 East Concord St., Boston, Mass. 02118.
    From the Department of Medicine & Biochemistry, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
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      Clinical, experimental and pathologic studies strongly indicate that hypertension is a major factor in coronary heart disease, sudden death, stroke, congestive heart failure and renal insufficiency. The deleterious effect of the elevated blood pressure on the cardiovascular system appears to be due mainly to the mechanical stress placed on the heart and blood vessels. Humoral factors and vasoactive hormones such as angiotensin, catecholamines and prostaglandins may play a role in the pathogenesis of hypertensive cardiovascular disease but this role has not yet been defined and is probably secondary.
      Hypertension, and the resulting increase in tangential tension on the myocardial and arterial walls, leads to the development of hypertensive heart disease and congestive heart failure as well as hypertensive vascular disease that affects not only the kidneys but also the heart and brain. Hypertensive vascular disease involves both large and small arteries as well as arterioles and is characterized by fibromuscular thickening of the intima and media with luminal narrowing of the small arteries and arterioles. The physical stress of hypertension on the arterial wall also results in the aggravation and acceleration of atherosclerosis, particularly of the coronary and cerebral vessels. Moreover, hypertension appears to increase the susceptibility of the small and large arteries to atherosclerosis. Thus the patient with hypertension is a candidate for both hypertensive and atherosclerotic vascular disease of the coronary and cerebral vessels leading to occlusive disease of both the large and small arteries and resulting in myocardial infarction and stroke. Other major complications of hypertensive vascular disease include rupture and thrombotic occlusion of blood vessels, especially in the brain.
      Disease of the arterial media, which begins in childhood with the deposition of calcium in the vessels, may be an important cause of arterial hypertension. This form of hypertension may manifest itself in adults as arteriosclerotic hypertension and lead to cardiovascular complications very similar to those of essential hypertension. The relation of arteriosclerotic hypertension to nutritional factors, including dietary salt intake, deserves study.
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