What is Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease?
Hypertensive cardiovascular disease is a general term that describes several problems affecting the heart. The disease is characterized by high blood pressure and the resulting damage to the heart muscle and blood vessels. As blood forces its way through the chambers of the heart, the walls of the heart become stressed and may become larger than normal. This affects the normal pumping action of the heart, which can lead to serious conditions including cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure.
High Blood Pressure is the Primary Cause of the Disease
A normal blood pressure reading is around 120 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 80 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic reading between 120 and 139 mm Hg and a diastolic reading between 80 and 89 mm Hg. Higher readings are considered stage 1 hypertension and are defined with a systolic reading between 140 and 159 mm Hg and a diastolic reading between 90 and 99 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is defined with a systolic reading of 160 mm Hg or greater and a diastolic reading of 100 mm Hg or greater.
High blood pressure with no identifiable causes is the main cause of hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Existing medical conditions which lead to elevated blood pressure, including kidney failure and abnormal hormone levels, account for a small percentage of causes of the disease. The increased stress on the blood vessels and heart due to high blood pressure leads to changes in their structure.
Progression of the Disease
The effects of high blood pressure are most evident on the walls of the left ventricle of the heart. Left ventricular hypertrophy is an enlargement of the walls of the left ventricle, and it is one of the early signs of the disease. As the disease progresses, left ventricular diastolic function decreases, followed by a decrease in left ventricular systolic function. The onset of left ventricular hypertrophy usually puts the individual at risk for several other problems, including cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. Angina and coronary artery disease can also result from high blood pressure.
Symptoms of Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease
High blood pressure and left ventricular hypertrophy may not have any noticeable symptoms prior to the conditions becoming life threatening. The symptoms of angina are recognizable and include chest pain, heaviness or pressure that spreads to the neck, jaw and upper back. The pain usually lasts less than 15 minutes. The symptoms of cardiac arrhythmias include irregular or forceful beating of the heart and fainting.
There are several medications that lower blood pressure including thiazide diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers. Along with taking blood pressure medications, diet and lifestyle changes can improve your overall cardiovascular health. A low-sodium diet with folic acid supplementation and vigorous exercise 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of developing hypertensive heart disease.
1. “Hypertensive Heart Disease.” eMedicine. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/162449-overview
2. “Essential Hypertension.” MedlinePlus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000153.htm