Hypertensive heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the statistics given by the World Health Organization, 17.9 million people lose their lives due to hypertensive heart diseases per year [1].

The global data suggests that 26.4% of the world population is hypertensive. It means that one out of every five individuals has high blood pressure but only one has it under control. Research has also found that prolonged hypertension eventually causes heart failure in a median time of 14.1 years [2].

Despite its high prevalence and mortality, people don’t know much about hypertensive heart disease. Let’s dive further into this disease, its risk factors, and how it can be prevented.

Also see, Natural Ways To Reduce High Blood Pressure, Benefits Of Cardiovascular Exercise, and 9 Best Heart Vitamins.

What Are Hypertension and Hypertensive Heart Disease?

Hypertension means high blood pressure. This measures the force with which the blood pushes against the vessels of the body.

According to the European Society of Cardiology, systolic blood pressure greater than 140 and diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 are labeled as hypertension [3]. The upper limit of blood pressure increases with age because the blood vessels become lax and more force is required to propel the blood through them.

The heart problems that occur due to high blood pressure are called hypertensive heart diseases. This puts a strain on the heart and can lead to difficulty in the pumping of blood.

How Are Hypertension and Heart Disease Related?

Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure can cause inflammation of the coronary arteries, leading to decreased blood flow to the heart.

Moreover, it can also thicken the walls of the heart which in turn decreases its filling and pumping capacity. This causes less blood to be pumped out and less blood to reach the organs which may ultimately lead to the death of tissues [2]. That’s why; there is a strong correlation between high blood pressure and heart diseases.

People suffering from hypertension have an increased risk of developing following heart conditions;

What are the Risk Factors for Hypertensive Heart Disease?

You have an increased risk of developing hypertensive heart disease if you have the following [4];

  • Age greater than 45
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Food rich in salt
  • Being overweight
  • Less physical activity
  • Smoker
  • Alcohol abuse – etc

The above factors can cause hypertensive heart disease to progress at a faster and deadlier rate. Therefore, it is important to control and, when possible, eliminate all the risk factors to decrease the chances of such heart conditions.

How does Hypertensive Heart Disease Affect Your Body?

Hypertensive affects many organs of your body; the heart and coronary blood vessels are affected the most [5].

Some of the major effects of hypertensive heart disease are the following;

  • The heart has to work against a greater pressure of blood leading to the thickening of the walls of the heart. The thick walls decrease the volume in the heart chamber, so less blood is propelled forward with each heartbeat.
  • Hypertension can weaken the walls of the blood vessels and lead to the formation of pouches called an aneurysm.
  • The decreased pumping action of the heart may lead to fluid build-up in the lungs. This leads to pulmonary edema and causes shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue.
  • Cholesterol deposits in the inner lining of the blood vessels lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. This deposition is faster in the presence of hypertension. The atherosclerotic plaque decreases the blood supply to the heart and other organs where blood is pumped leading to angina, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and sudden death.

What are the Symptoms of Hypertensive Heart Disease?

The symptoms of hypertensive heart disease include the following [4];

  • Pain in chest
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Syncope / fainting
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Coldness or numbness of limbs
  • Generalized weakness in the body – etc

If any person experiences these symptoms, he/she should go to his nearest physician for a complete physical and cardiac evaluation.

How is Hypertensive Heart Disease Diagnosed?

When you visit your physician for a checkup, he will perform several physical exams and laboratory tests that will help him to reach the final diagnosis [6]. The signs that help make the diagnosis of hypertensive heart disease include;

  • Blood pressure higher than 140/90 was recorded on at least three different occasions; or greater than 160/100 was recorded on one occasion.
  • Unusual heart sounds
  • Fluids in the lower lobes of the lungs
  • Crackles in lung bases
  • Erratic heartbeat – etc

He might ask for different tests to reach the diagnosis. These tests include;

  • ECG
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress Tests
  • Cardiac Enzymes Levels
  • Chest X-Ray
  • Coronary Angiogram

Usually, doctors use easier tests like ECG and Stress tests first. If any abnormality is found in them, they will then decide to use higher-level testing to identify the damage, its possible cause, and its effects on the body functions.

What is the Treatment of Hypertensive Heart Disease?

Since hypertensive heart disease is a constellation of symptoms, it also requires a myriad of drugs to resolve all the symptoms.

Treatment requires lifestyle measures, vigilant monitoring of blood pressure, and different classes of drugs.

Ø  Lifestyle Modifications

While it is difficult to control high blood pressure and heart disease by changes in lifestyle only, these modifications can help to manage high blood pressure effectively and prevent it from rising beyond control [7].

The lifestyle changes that help in maintaining good control over high blood pressure are;

  • Decreased salt intake
  • Regular exercise
  • Decreased cholesterol in the diet
  • No sugary or bakery items in the food
  • Strict control over diabetes
  • Cut the intake of caffeine
  • Quit smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Having a healthy balanced diet that contains an appropriate amount of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • A good night’s sleep and reduced stress can work wonders toward controlling your blood pressure – etc

Ø  Monitoring of Blood Pressure

If you have hypertensive heart disease, you should carry out regular blood pressure checkups at home and maintain a proper record. Moreover, regular visits to the physician are important, so he/she can check if you suffer from any complications of hypertensive heart disease, or if any adjustment needs to be made to your medications.

Sudden elevations in blood pressure can have deadly consequences, more so if you have heart disease with it. They put you at risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death, therefore regular monitoring of blood pressure is significant to make sure that it stays within the normal ranges.

If you experience any sudden elevations in blood pressure, chest pain, or difficulty in breathing, you should go to the hospital immediately.

Ø  Drugs used to Treat Hypertensive Heart Disease

Physicians use different medications to treat hypertensive heart disease [6]. These drugs include;

  • ACE inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Aspirin
  • Digoxin
  • Beta-blockers
  • Diuretics
  • Nitrates

These drugs cause dilation of blood vessels which are supplying blood to the heart, so more blood can be provided to the heart with each beat. These also reduce the workload on the heart, both by decreasing the high blood pressure and by increasing blood flow towards the heart.

Hypertensive heart disease is a chronic condition. Regular doses of medication at the proper time are important to keep the disease under control and prevent any further complications. Formal checkups by the physicians are also important to adjust the doses of medications if required.

How to Prevent Hypertensive Heart Disease?

Hypertensive heart disease can be prevented by the adoption of the following measures [8];

What to do in Case of Hypertensive Emergency At Home?

If you have extremely high blood pressure at home, or if you start having symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, severe headache, blurry vision, nausea, etc, you are in a state of hypertensive emergency. This state can be fatal unless properly managed.

While proper management has to be done in a hospital setting, things that you can do until an ambulance arrives are:

  • Stay calm
  • Check your blood pressure again
  • Call for help (if you are having symptoms and your blood pressure is peaking)
  • Take antihypertensive drugs prescribed by your physician for emergencies
  • Pop a tablet of sublingual nitrate
  • Stay as close to the main door as possible
  • Try calling your friends and relatives after you have called the ambulance

Final Thoughts

Hypertension is a fatal disease in itself. Being combined with heart disease, its mortality increases four-fold. Proper control of hypertension, its associated risk factors, and complications are required to keep the disease within its bounds. Lifestyle modifications, regular blood pressure monitoring, and appropriate medications are needed. While it is a chronic disease, adequate management can keep it under control and allow you to lead a normal and healthy life.

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  1. Cardiovascular diseases. (2019, June 11). WHO. https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases
  2. Lip, G. (2000). Hypertensive heart disease. A complex syndrome or a hypertensive “cardiomyopathy”? European Heart Journal, 21(20), 1653–1665. https://doi.org/10.1053/euhj.2000.2339
  3. European Society of Hypertension! European Society of Cardiology guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension*. (2003). Journal of Hypertension, 21(6), 1011–1053. https://doi.org/10.1097/00004872-200306000-00001
  4. Hypertensive Heart Disease: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21840-hypertensive-heart-disease
  5. Hypertensive heart disease. (n.d.). Mount Sinai Health System. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/hypertensive-heart-disease
  6. High Blood Pressure and Hypertensive Heart Disease. (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertensive-heart-disease
  7. 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication. (2021, February 24). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-200469742003
  8. Erlinger, C. (2018, August 29). Seven Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy. The Heart Foundation. https://theheartfoundation.org/2017/04/05/seven-ways-to-keep-your-heart-healthy

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