Healthy arteries are vitally important. They need to remain strong and elastic. Their inner lining should be smooth for the blood flow that enriches the organs and tissues with adequate nutrients and oxygen.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure can rise and fall during the day or during certain activities. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension.
High blood pressure can damage the cells of your arteries' inner lining. Other conditions can aggravate the damage from hypertension, making the artery walls thick and stiff. Fats from your diet enter your bloodstream, pass through the damaged cells and collect to start atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
In severe, untreated cases, these changes can affect arteries throughout your body, blocking blood flow to your heart, kidneys, brain, arms and legs.
The damage can cause many problems, including chest pain (angina), heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, blocked arteries in your legs or arms (peripheral arterial disease), eye damage, and aneurysms.