Hypertension is known as the “silent killer”, but do you know why? When left untreated, high blood pressure can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels, leading to heart failure, stroke, or a heart attack. How does hypertension cause these complications? What is the connection of hypertension with heart disease? In this article, we discuss the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of hypertensive heart disease and the complications associated with it.Contents:
Hypertensive heart disease is a condition that develops over many years in people who have uncontrolled high blood pressure. Persistent high blood pressure puts a strain on your heart and makes it harder for it to pump blood, which can lead to a group of heart conditions like arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), weakened heart muscles, and heart failure, all of which are associated with hypertensive heart disease.
When you have hypertension, the pressure exerted by your blood as it flows through your blood vessels can damage the elasticity of their walls and cause minute tears in the inner lining of the walls. An excess of a fatty substance, called cholesterol, can accumulate in the damaged parts of your blood vessels, resulting in the formation of plaque.
Plaque build-up can cause your coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to your heart) to become stiff, clogged and narrow, leading to reduced blood and oxygen supply to your heart.
Reduced oxygen supply can cause your heart muscles to become tired and weak, making your heart unable to effectively pump blood to the rest of your body. Thus, hypertension can lead to heart disease and heart failure if left untreated.
In general, hypertensive heart disease can cause problems in the blood vessels and muscles of your heart, leading to:
Coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to your heart muscle. When high blood pressure and plaque build-up cause your blood vessels to become clogged and narrow, blood flow to your heart can be interrupted partially or completely. This condition is known as coronary artery disease.
CAD makes it difficult for your heart to function efficiently and supply the rest of your organs with blood. It can also put you at an increased risk of having a heart attack, as small pieces of plaque can break off and form blood clots that obstruct blood flow in the coronary arteries.
High blood pressure can reduce blood flow to your heart muscles which can weaken them. Weaker heart muscles have to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Constant hard work and strain can cause your heart muscles to thicken and grow. This can alter the way your heart functions.
These changes usually happen in the left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart), and lead to a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy (Left ventricular enlargement). LVH can lead to complications like an irregular heartbeat or heart failure, as your heart is unable to pump blood effectively throughout your body.
The following are the risk factors for hypertensive heart disease:
The following are the signs and symptoms of hypertensive heart disease:
Hypertensive heart disease and related cardiovascular problems can be diagnosed through the following tests:
The treatment prescribed for hypertensive heart disease may vary based on the severity of your condition, your age, and overall health. The following are the available treatment options for the various heart diseases caused by hypertension:
Your doctor may prescribe medication to:
These medicines can help prevent your condition from worsening and improve blood flow to your heart.
In severe cases of heart disease or heart failure, the following surgical interventions may be required:
It is a surgical procedure used to divert blood supply away from the clogged portion of your coronary arteries and restore normal blood supply to your heart muscles.
In cases of severe coronary artery disease or end-stage heart failure, a heart transplant may be required. Your doctor may recommend a heart transplant if all other treatment options failed to improve your condition.
Your doctor may recommend implanting a device like a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) if your heartbeat is too slow or irregular. These devices are implanted in your chest and they ensure that your heart is beating steadily and functioning normally.
Along with the above treatment measures, your doctor may also recommend lifestyle modifications like dietary changes, regular exercise, and quitting smoking in order to alleviate your condition.
Coronary artery disease and left ventricular hypertrophy can lead to the following complications if left untreated:
Hypertensive heart disease and associated complications like arrhythmia, heart attack, heart failure, etc. can be prevented through the following measures:
Seek immediate medical assistance if your blood pressure reading is above 180/120 mmHg or if you experience two or more of the following symptoms of a heart attack:
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