Hypertension Leading To Heart Failure
Heart disorders are the leading cause of death and illnesses related to hypertension.
Hypertension is a condition when the pressure inside your blood vessels is too high. This causes the heart to pump against the pressure, compelling it to work harder. Gradually, this causes your heart muscles to thicken.
As hypertension is a silent condition, people can have this condition without even knowing it. In the majority cases, symptoms are not present until many years, when heart damage has already been initiated.
For the same reason, the heart muscles become so thick that they are unable to get adequate oxygen. This lack of oxygen may cause chest pain or angina.
At the same time, unattended high blood pressure weakens the heart so that it cannot supply adequate blood to the body, a condition known as heart failure.
Further, high blood pressure also thickens your blood vessels. When associated with cholesterol deposition on the wall of blood vessels, hypertension increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Given these points, if you have high blood pressure, it is better to manage it and take all precautions to prevent heart disorders.
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Hypertension and Heart Failure
Heart failure is a condition where the heart is unable to pump adequate blood to the body. It is a common disorder affecting almost 3.6% of Canadians.
Hypertension is one of the most common modifiable risk factors for heart failure. This means, managing blood pressure prevents its occurrence.
Here is how hypertension leads to heart failure:
- Increases your heart’s load: Hypertension results in narrowing of blood vessels. These narrowed arteries are less elastic and make it difficult for blood to pass through them. This, in turn, causes the heart to pump harder.
- Results in an enlarged heart: To cope with greater demand, the heart muscles get larger and thicker. While the enlarged heart pumps blood, it is not able to do that efficiently. So, the heart has to work still harder to meet the body’s nutrients and oxygen demands.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
As the heart cannot provide blood to various body parts, the kidneys respond by retaining sodium and water. This results in a build-up of fluid in multiple organs.
Some symptoms of heart failure are:
- Swelling of ankles, feet, or abdomen
- Inability to lie flat on the bed
- Increased urge to urinate at night
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular pulse
- Persistent wheezing or cough
- Decreased alertness
- Loss of appetite
Hypertension and Other Heart Disorders
Apart from heart failure, narrowing of the arteries and enlargement of the heart also increases the risk of other heart disorders.
Here are a few of them:
Ischemic Heart Disease
As the heart muscles enlarge, they do not get enough oxygen and blood. This condition is known as ischemic heart disease (IHD). Some of the symptoms of IHD are:
- Chest pain extending to arms, jaw, or back
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular pulse
Coronary Heart Disease
High blood pressure results in blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the heart. This restricts the blood flow and results in abnormal blood supply to the heart. This condition is known as coronary heart disease. Some of its symptoms are:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Crushing sensation in the heart
Risk Factors for Heart Disorders
While anyone with hypertension can have heart disorders, the following factors increase the risk:
- Being overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Consumption of food high in cholesterol and fat
- Family history of heart disorder
Men are at a higher risk of heart disorders than women who have not reached menopause. Postmenopausal women and men are at equal risk.
Prevention of Heart Disorders
The most essential factor in preventing heart disorders is to manage your blood pressure. Lowering your pressure by monitoring stress and eating a healthy diet are the best ways of avoiding cardiac disorders.
You can find the best diet plan for hypertension here.
Besides, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly are also beneficial lifestyle changes.
The next time you are at your doctor’s office, talk about ways to improve your health and prevent heart disorders.
Management of Heart Disorders with Hypertension
Your doctor will carry out specific tests, such as ECG, angiography, or blood test, to confirm a heart disorder. Once diagnosed, your doctor might suggest either of the following treatment types.
Medicines improve your heart health in various ways. The primary aim here is to improve blood flow, prevent blood from clotting, and lower your cholesterol.
Some commonly prescribed medications are:
- Nitrates, to manage chest pain
- Water pills or diuretics, to lower blood pressure
- ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers, to lower blood pressure
- Statins, to manage cholesterol levels
- Aspirin, to prevent clotting of blood.
To know more about these medications, you can read our previously written article here.
In certain cases, your doctor might advise surgery or devices to improve blood flow to the heart. Some options are:
- Pacemaker (A battery-operated device that helps the heart muscles to contract). It is helpful when cardiac muscle activity is absent or slow.
- Cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) (Implantable device). It is used when the heart fails to beat in rhythm.
- Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) is a surgical treatment to treat blocked blood vessels. It is helpful to manage coronary artery disease.
- A heart transplant might be needed in severe cases.
Hypertension is the commonest modifiable cause of heart disorders, such as heart failure. Unattended high blood pressure increases pressure on the heart, which results in enlargement of the heart muscles. These thick muscles, when associated with lack of blood supply, results in abnormal functioning of the heart and thus heart failure.
Lowering blood pressure and improving lifestyle, such as consuming a healthy diet and reducing stress levels, are the best way to prevent heart disorders.
So, managing hypertension may not be easy, but it is not impossible. Educating yourself about complications associated with it and taking precautions to manage them can help you lead a healthier life.