What 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 conditions.
Hypertensive heart disease can cause serious health problems and is the leading cause of death from high blood pressure.
Types 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 coronary arteries.
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 enough oxygen
- heart attack: blood flow to the heart is interrupted
- sudden cardiac arrest: your heart suddenly stops working, you stop breathing, and you lose consciousness
- stroke and sudden death
Who Is at Risk for Hypertensive Heart Disease?
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.
Identifying 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 may include:
- 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.