Vascular calcification is an active and regulated process which is integral to cardiovascular disease and intimately linked to hypertension. Dysfunctional vascular smooth muscle cells, microvesicles, and dysregulated mineralization inhibitors play key roles in the calcification process, which occurs in the vessel intima in association with atherosclerosis as well as in the vessel media during ageing. Historically hypertension was considered a risk factor promoting atherosclerosis and associated intimal calcification. However, it is now recognized that not all vascular calcification occurs with atherosclerosis, and calcification of the vessel media is associated with arterial stiffening and is a major cause of isolated systolic hypertension in the elderly. Importantly, vascular calcification, regardless of its anatomical site, is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular mortality. Therefore, understanding the factors and mechanisms driving these processes will provide novel therapeutic targets for its prevention and perhaps ultimately its regression.
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