A U.S. hospital is trying to increase awareness of three dangerous conditions especially for those with high blood pressure.

The Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Indiana is bringing public attention to three common and dangerous conditions that all involve blood flow and are all serious risk factors for people with high blood pressure — Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.), Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), and stroke.

Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.) raises the risk for heart attack and stroke. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has P.A.D. The condition occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the limbs. This buildup — called plaque — narrows the arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood. High blood pressure raises the risk of developing plaque in the arteries.

Nearly 20 percent of those affected by P.A.D. will experience a heart attack, stroke or hospitalization. Symptoms include painful cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles during activity. Besides those with hypertension, the condition affects people who have diabetes, high cholesterol, who smoke and is more than twice more likely to affect African Americans than their white counterparts. As described by U.S. Health Department guidelines, P.A.D. is easily screened using an ankle-brachial index (ABI) — a comparison of blood pressure readings in the arms with readings in the ankles. Besides bringing blood pressure under control, P.A.D. is treated through making lifestyle changes; taking medication; and in some cases, having a special procedure or surgery.

Another risk for hypertensives is the development of an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), which occurs when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward. An AAA can develop in anyone, but occurs mostly in men over the age of 60. They also usually take many years to develop and the most common symptoms are severe, sudden, persistent, or constant pain in the abdomen or lower back. Risk factors besides having high blood pressure, are a history of smoking, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, or a family history of aortic aneurysm.

According to the Journal of Vascular Surgery, approximately 200,000 new cases of AAA are diagnosed each year. If not treated, the condition could result in a rupture of the aorta. The risk of rupture increases with aneurysm size and high blood pressure. Ruptured aneurysms are frequently fatal and are a leading cause of death in the U.S.

Major risk factors for stroke, which is the sudden death of brain cells in a localized area due to inadequate blood flow, include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, peripheral arterial disease, atrial fibrillation, a family history of stroke, TIAs (transient ischemic attacks), carotid artery disease, and being over the age of 55. During a stroke screening, blood pressure is measured and a monitor strip of the heart’s rhythm is obtained. Then a quick ultrasound scan is done of the carotid arteries.

According to the Internet Stroke Center, an independent online resource, hypertension is the most important risk factor for stroke. Around every 40 seconds someone in the United States dies from stroke. According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled. High blood pressure contributes to more than 12.7 million strokes worldwide!

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