High blood pressure and Heart Damage
Chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure damages both the heart muscle and blood vessels, making it one of the most important causes of heart disease. Blood pressure readings measure the force of the blood as it moves through the arteries while the heart is beating (the systolic or upper reading) and while it is between beats or at rest (the diastolic or lower reading).
Heart damage occurs from constant high pressure of blood in the arteries. The heart muscles must work harder to pump blood against the higher arterial pressure. As with any muscle that is worked hard, the heart muscle becomes enlarged. In the case of the heart, however, this muscle enlargement causes stiffening and impairs the action of the heart. The heart strains as it is forced to work harder and harder to pump blood, and it eventually weakens and fails. This strain on the heart increases a person’s risk for heart failure, heart attack and sudden cardiac death.
Hypertension and Artery Damage
Uncontrolled high blood pressure damages the heart indirectly by damaging the arteries. Constant high blood pressure hardens and thickens artery walls, a condition called athersclerosis, which may lead to a stroke or heart attack. Arteries may also become more susceptible to plaque buildup, narrowing the artery and reducing blood flow and thus further increasing pressure. When thickening occurs in the arteries supplying the heart with blood, coronary artery disease results. This causes chest pain, irregular heartbeat (arrythmia) and heart attack. Aneurysm, a bulge in a weak spot in the arterial wall, is another complication of high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Additional Complications of Hypertension
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is also associated with other health complications that could indirectly affect the heart. People with high blood pressure are more likely to have a cluster of disorders called metabolic syndrome than people with normal blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of high blood pressure, thick waist, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol), high low-density lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol), and high insulin levels. The more factors a person has, the more likely he is to develop diabetes, heart disease or stroke.