High blood pressure (or “hypertension”) is a type of cardiovascular disease, along with heart diseases like heart failure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, myocarditis, pericarditis, and diseases affecting circulation. These include peripheral artery disease and deep venous thrombosis (DVT).
Read on to learn more about the heart and circulatory system and the links between high blood pressure and heart diseases.
The Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system (or “circulatory system”) consists of the heart, a system of vessels made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries, and roughly five liters of blood that flows through the blood vessels. The cardiovascular system carries vital functions. It supplies O2 and nutrients to the body’s cells and helps maintain body temperature. It also maintains fluid balance and protects the body from blood loss and disease. Last, it helps move waste products out of the body.
The heart powers the entire circulatory system. It is the muscular pumping organ found between the lungs, in the thorax, behind the breastbone, slightly towards the left. The heart has four chambers: two atria (right and left) and two ventricles (right and left).
There are two main circulatory systems (loops): the systemic and the pulmonary.
High blood pressure, as a diagnosis, refers to the systemic circulation. This type carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the body’s cells via the aorta. The aorta is the largest vessel in the body and begins at the top of the left ventricle. The systemic system moves blood from the heart to the body’s cells and vice versa.
There is also pulmonary hypertension. This is when blood pressure increases in the pulmonary system (the vessels that carry blood from the heart to your lungs). This system includes the pulmonary artery and the pulmonary veins. It brings oxygen to and from the heart and releases CO2. It carries deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle to the lungs through the pulmonary artery. Pulmonary hypertension often occurs with left heart diseases.
High Blood Pressure And Hypertensive Heart Disease
There is a group of heart diseases called hypertensive heart diseases. This group includes heart failure, ischemic heart diseases, and left ventricular hypertrophy. Hypertensive heart disease is the number one cause of death found with hypertension.
If you have high blood pressure, you should be aware of the symptoms of hypertensive heart diseases. If you have symptoms, seek medical advice and treatment.
In heart failure, the heart is less able to pump blood or is less elastic than normal. This increases pressure and decreases oxygen and nutrient output in the body. The heart tries to adjust and stretch more, but over time, it becomes weaker and weaker. The kidneys are connected with the heart and try to adjust to these changes by retaining more water and salt. As a result, a person with heart failure will have fluid buildup in the feet, lungs, or other organs.
Symptoms of heart failure include trouble breathing (shortness of breath), irregular pulse, swelling in the feet or ankles (edema), swelling of the stomach (ascites), increased urination at night, fatigue, and digestive symptoms like nausea and bloating. Trouble sleeping flat in bed could be another sign of heart failure.
Ischemic Heart Diseases
Ischemia means decreased blood supply to a certain organ or body tissue. In the case of ischemic heart diseases, it is the heart that is not receiving enough blood. High blood pressure, fat in the arteries, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) all can decrease the blood flow to the heart and cause these diseases. Angina and heart attacks are examples.
Symptoms of ischemic heart disease include chest pain that may travel to the neck, jaw, arms, or back, abnormal (irregular) pulse, fatigue, and weakness. Chest pain that happens along with shortness of breath, sweating, and dizziness may point to ischemic heart disease. This requires immediate medical attention.
Left Ventricular Hypertrophy
Left ventricular hypertrophy means that the muscle of the left ventricle of the heart is thicker than normal. This thickening can be caused by high blood pressure (especially uncontrolled high blood pressure) and promotes heart failure and arrhythmias.
At first, left ventricular hypertrophy may not cause any symptoms. As the condition progresses, a person may have shortness of breath, chest pain (especially after working out), fatigue, dizziness, and palpitations. Severe chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes and shortness and breath require emergency care.
High blood pressure heart diseases require tests such as EKG, heart ultrasound, x-rays, stress test, and angiogram. Treatment is focused on caretaking high blood pressure with diuretics, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers.
It’s vital to maintain a healthy, low sodium diet, avoid excess weight, stop smoking, and have regular follow-ups with the cardiologist.