Hypertension is a condition that is seen very commonly in a major part of the adults in the general population. The fast paced lifestyle of the modern world is one which is filled with stress and an elevated blood pressure is a widespread result. Hypertension can affect the heart in a number of ways and if not properly diagnosed and treated it could lead to a number of potentially lethal complications. These are collectively referred to as Hypertensive Heart Diseases.
Hypertensive Heart Disease is caused due to an elevated blood pressure over a long period of time, chronically elevated BP or a significantly marked and acute elevation. This rise in blood pressure causes structural changes in the myocardium or the heart muscle, the coronary arteries and the conduction system of the heart. This results in various heart complications like Coronary Artery Disease, Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (LVH), conduction system diseases along with systolic and diastolic dysfunction of the heart muscles which could lead to chest pain or angina and in worse cases Myocardial Infarction. Cardiac Arrhythmias and congestive heart failure (CHF) could also result from hypertension.
LVH is a very commonly seen complication associated with Hypertensive Heart Disease. Left Ventricular Hypertrophy refers to the thickening of the myocardium or heart muscle of the left ventricle of the heart. The frequency of occurrence is such that of patients with hypertension about 15-20% develop LVH. Based on the ECG results the prevalence of LVH is varied. Then again, ECG is not a sensitive marker to diagnose LVH. Obesity is an increased risk factor for LVH. The risk is increased about twice for an obese person compared to a normal person.
Structural and functional changes of the left atrium are observed in patients suffering from Hypertensive heart Disease. They go unnoticed most of the time. Valvular diseases are also seen as a result of Hypertensive Heart Disease.
Heart Failure is another common and potentially lethal complication that can be credited to Hypertensive Heart Disease. It is not often diagnosed that hypertension is a cause for Congestive Heart Failure. This is due to the fact that in the event of a heart failure the left ventricle doesn’t function properly and it is not able to generate the high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a recognized risk factor for Coronary Artery Disease, the risk is almost doubled in case of hypertension. The prevalence of hypertension is high among patients experiencing angina or chest pain. The risk for Myocardial Ischemia is also increased manifold by hypertension.
Symptoms of Hypertensive heart Disease depends on the duration and type of complication. The common Symptoms are:
- Irregular Pulse
- Swelling of feet
- Weight gain
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Shortness of Breath
- Greater need to urinate at night
The incidence of Hypertensive Heart Disease is seen to be more in younger men than in women. More men under the age of 55 years is seen to suffer from Hypertensive Heart Disease whereas more women than men are affected after the age of 55 years. This is because till the age of 55 men have higher levels of blood pressure than women. Once women reach menopause their blood pressure levels rise sharply and becomes more than that in men of the same age.
Lifestyle changes can work to a great extent in preventing Hypertensive Heart Disease. Dietary Modifications, Regular exercise, weight reduction etc are very effective in keeping hypertension under check.