Hypertensive Heart Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Published August 4th, 2021 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

High blood pressure is a common problem in the U.S. Hypertensive heart disease, or high blood pressure that affects the heart, is one of the most serious problems you can face. The condition impacts one in three U.S. adults and puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Find out more about hypertensive heart disease: what it is, what causes the condition, how it's treated, and the best methods for prevention. 

What is hypertensive heart disease?

Hypertensive heart disease is a common type of high blood pressure that occurs over a long period of time and is caused by increased resistance to the flow of blood from the heart which prevents the blood from distributing oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Hypertensive heart disease can lead to a buildup of fluid in the body, and it's a key risk factor for stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and congestive heart failure. If you think you are at risk for hypertensive heart disease, please see your healthcare provider.

What causes hypertensive heart disease?

Hypertensive heart disease is caused by high blood pressure which means that the blood in your arteries, or blood vessels, is pressing more against the walls of the arteries which can cause damage to them. Your heart must work harder to combat this increase in pressure and it can lead to the thickening of the heart muscle. 

Research indicates that there may be an association between hypertensive heart disease and diabetes or smoking habits, as smoking increases your blood pressure. In addition, family history may also play a role. If one parent or sibling has hypertensive heart disease, you are more likely to have hypertensive heart disease.

What are the symptoms of hypertensive heart disease?

The symptoms of hypertensive heart disease are dependent upon whether it is accompanied by heart failure. Even with an enlarged heart, if it is not accompanied by heart failure this disease can remain symptomless. If it is accompanied by congestive heart failure, there are a number of symptoms you should watch out for, some of the most common include:

  • fatigue 
  • irregular pulse or heart palpitations 
  • swelling of feet and ankles 
  • chest pain
  • weight gain 
  • nausea 
  • shortness of breath 
  • difficulty sleeping flat in the bed, also called orthopnea 
  • bloating and abdominal pain
  • having to urinate more frequently at night 
  • an enlarged heart, also called cardiomegaly 
  • coronary heart disease 
  • atrial fibrillation which is an abnormal heartbeat, also known as cardiac arrhythmia 
  • sleep apnea
  • left ventricular hypertrophy in athletes or the thickening of the left pumping chamber of the heart 
  • cardiac arrest 

Myocardial ischemia, when blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease, when you have recurring chest pain, increased blood pressure, and cardiac arrhythmias may all be signs of heart failure and can lead to a heart attack. 

When should I contact a health professional about hypertensive heart disease?

If you have any of the symptoms above, it’s important to see a health professional about hypertensive heart disease. If you are experiencing high blood pressure and have any of these symptoms please contact a healthcare professional. 

How do you treat hypertensive heart disease?

To diagnose hypertensive heart disease, doctors may use any of the following tests:

  • echocardiogram where sound waves are used to take an ultrasound of your heart 
  • electrocardiogram, or ECG or EKG, where your heart's electrical impulses are measured 
  • coronary angiography or the measure of the blood flow through your coronary arteries 
  • various stress tests while exercising or resting

Patients may have no symptoms making it difficult to treat them. However, there are a lot of treatments should you be diagnosed with high blood pressure. If you diagnose it early enough you can help prevent other medical problems like stroke and chronic kidney disease. To treat it, you would follow the same treatments used for hypertension or high blood pressure.

First, you would want to identify with your doctor your target blood pressure. There are various guidelines about target blood pressure but you and your doctor can settle on the right one for you. 

Treatments for hypertensive heart disease may also include medications. These medications include thiazide diuretics, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors called ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs.

Surgery is also an option and a physician may choose to implant several different devices. A pacemaker is implanted when the electrical signal from the heart is weak and produces electrical stimulation for the heart to contract at a regular pace. Cardioverter-defibrillators, or ICDs, can be used to treat cardiac arrhythmias by being implanted in the chest too. In severe cases, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or CABG, may also be attempted to help treat blocked arteries. The most drastic measure would be needing a heart transplant to replace your diseased heart and this is only used in the most severe cases. 

Finally, your doctor may ask you to change your lifestyle in order to prevent this disease from happening or making it worse. We’ll look at the best methods for doing that. 

Can you prevent hypertensive heart disease?

Yes! There are several ways you can help prevent hypertensive heart disease. The best way is to get a regular physical exam and monitor your blood pressure. If you need to lower your blood pressure you can do that in several ways, including:

  • eating healthy 
  • monitoring stress levels and making sure they don't get too high 
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • exercising 
  • getting enough sleep 
  • stopping smoking as smoking puts you at a higher risk for heart disease and high blood pressure 
  • drinking alcohol in moderation as excessive alcohol consumption is bad for blood pressure 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, in general, is the best way to prevent hypertensive heart disease, and these tips provide a simple guideline for doing it. Please consult with your doctor about other ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and help prevent hypertensive heart disease and other ailments. 

Summary

Hypertension or hypertensive heart disease is a chronic condition that affects the body's circulatory system. The condition is characterized by high blood pressure and can cause some other health problems like stroke and chronic kidney disease. Hypertensive heart disease can be difficult to diagnose because it can remain symptomless, although usually it is accompanied by a wide-ranging set of symptoms. It may or may not need treatment and treatments may include medications, surgery, or lifestyle changes. To prevent hypertensive heart disease, you should follow a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of hypertensive heart disease and other ailments. Please contact your health care provider should you have any other questions. 

Sources: 

NIH.gov – Hypertensive Heart Disease 

Mayo Clinic – Symptoms of heart disease 

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