Is Hypertensive Heart Disease?
Hypertensive heart disease refers to heart conditions caused by
high blood pressure.
A number of different heart disorders are caused by the heart
working under increased pressure. Hypertensive heart disease includes heart
failure, thickening of the heart muscle, coronary artery disease, and other
Hypertensive heart disease can cause serious health problems and
is the leading cause of death from high blood pressure.
of Hypertensive Heart Disease
In general, the heart problems associated with high blood
pressure relate to the heart’s arteries and muscles.
Narrowing of the Arteries
Coronary arteries transport blood to your heart muscle. When high
blood pressure causes the blood vessels to become narrow, blood flow to the
heart can slow or stop. This condition is known as coronary heart disease
(CHD), also called coronary artery disease.
CHD makes it difficult for your heart to function and supply the
rest of your organs with blood. It can put you at risk for heart attack from a
blood clot that gets stuck in one of the narrowed arteries and cuts off blood
flow to your heart.
Thickening and Enlargement of the Heart
High blood pressure makes it difficult for your heart to pump
blood. Just like other muscles in your body, regular hard work causes your
heart muscles to thicken and grow. This alters the way the heart functions.
These changes usually happen in the main pumping chamber of the heart, the left
ventricle. The condition is known as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).
CHD can cause LVH and vice versa: When you have CHD, your heart
must work harder. If your heart is enlarged because of LVH, it can compress the
Both CHD and LVH can lead to:
- heart failure: your heart is unable to pump
enough blood to the rest of your body
- arrhythmia: your heart beats abnormally
- ischemic heart disease: your heart doesn’t get
- heart attack: blood flow to the heart is
- sudden cardiac arrest: your heart suddenly stops
working, you stop breathing, and you lose consciousness
- stroke and sudden death
Is at Risk for Hypertensive Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and
women in the United States. Over 610,000 Americans die from
heart disease every year.
The main risk factor for hypertensive heart disease is high blood
pressure. Your risk increases if:
- you’re overweight
- you don’t exercise enough
- you smoke
- you eat high-fat and high-cholesterol foods
You’re more prone to heart disease if it runs in your family. Men
are more likely to get heart disease than women who have not gone through
menopause. Men and postmenopausal women are equally at risk. Your risk for
heart disease will increase as you age, regardless of your gender.
the Symptoms of Hypertensive Heart Disease
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the condition and
progression of the disease. You may experience no symptoms, or your symptoms
- chest pain (angina)
- tightness or pressure in the chest
- shortness of breath
- pain in the neck, back, arms, or shoulders
- persistent cough
- loss of appetite
- foot or ankle swelling
You need emergency care if your heart is suddenly beating rapidly
or irregularly. Seek emergency care immediately or call 911 if you faint or
have severe pain in your chest.
Regular physical exams will indicate whether you suffer from high
blood pressure. If you do have high blood pressure, take extra care to look out
for symptoms of heart disease.
and Diagnosis: When to See the Doctor
Your doctor will review your medical history, conduct a physical
exam, and run lab tests to check your kidneys, sodium, potassium, and blood
One or more of the following tests may be used to help determine
the cause of your symptoms:
- electrocardiogram: monitors
and records your heart’s electrical activity. Your doctor will attach patches
to your chest, legs, and arms. The results will be visible on a screen, and
your doctor will interpret them.
- echocardiogram: takes
a detailed picture of your heart and using ultrasound
angiography: examines the flow of blood through your heart. A thin
tube called a catheter is inserted through your groin or an artery in your arm
and up into the heart.
stress test: looks at how exercise affects your heart. You may be
asked to pedal an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill.
stress test: examines the flow of blood into the heart. The test is
usually conducted while you’re resting and exercising.
Hypertensive Heart Disease
Treatment for hypertensive heart disease depends on the
seriousness of your illness, your age, and your medical history.
Medications help your heart in a variety of ways. The main goals
are to prevent your blood from clotting, improve the flow of your blood, and
lower your cholesterol.
Examples of common heart disease medications include:
- water pills to help lower blood pressure
- nitrates to treat chest pain
- statins to treat high cholesterol
- beta-blockers to lower blood pressure and reduce
the amount of oxygen used by the heart
- aspirin to prevent blood clots
It’s important to always take all medications exactly as
Surgeries and Devices
In more extreme cases, you may need surgery to increase blood
flow to your heart.
If you need help regulating your heart’s rate or rhythm, your
doctor may surgically implant a battery-operated device called a pacemaker in
your chest or abdomen. A pacemaker produces electrical stimulation that causes
cardiac muscle to contract. Implantation of a pacemaker is important and
beneficial when cardiac muscle electrical activity is inappropriately slow or
Cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are implantable devices that
can be used to treat serious, life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.
Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) treats blocked
coronary arteries. This is only done in severe CHD.
A heart transplant or other heart-assisting devices may be
necessary if your condition is especially severe.
Recovering from hypertensive heart disease depends on the exact
condition and its intensity. Lifestyle changes can help keep the condition from
getting worse in some cases. In severe cases, medications and surgery may not
be effective in controlling the disease.
Hypertensive Heart Disease
Monitoring and preventing your blood pressure from getting too
high is one of the most important ways to prevent hypertensive heart disease.
Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol by eating a healthy
diet and monitoring stress levels are possibly the best ways to prevent heart
Maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate sleep, and
exercising regularly are common lifestyle recommendations. Talk to your doctor
about ways to improve your overall health.