Hypertension is the Leading Cause of Heart Disease

Hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) is the leading cause of heart disease, and heart disease is the leading cause of heart attack.

Helpful Highlights

  • There are often no symptoms of hypertension for years and damage to the heart has already occurred. This is why it's called "the silent killer."

  • Hypertensive heart disease is the leading cause of illness and death from chronic high blood pressure (hypertension).

  • Hypertension, combined with fat and cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels, significantly increases the risk of heart attack (and stroke).

  • Hypertension is the most common modifiable (controllable) risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

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Hypertension can cause many heart problems and is the leading cause of heart disease, also called coronary artery disease (CAD), where the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle itself are narrowed and damaged. Too little blood flow to the heart can lead to chest pain (angina), irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), or a heart attack.

Other heart problems include an enlarged or thickened left heart (the heart's main pumping chamber that delivers blood to the rest of the body), which is the leading cause of heart failure and contributes to the risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death, and heart failure due to the strain on the heart that weakens it over time.

So, what can your loved one do to prevent or control hypertension?

Hypertension prevention or control without medication

  • STOP SMOKING

  • Reduce sodium (salt) intake

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet (fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, whole grains, home-cooked, limit processed and fast foods)

  • Lose extra pounds and watch the waistline

    • Carrying too much weight around the waist - called central obesity - can increase the risk of high blood pressure (and diabetes)

  • Stay active, exercise regularly

  • Get adequate sleep

  • Limit alcohol intake

  • Reduce stress

  • Monitor blood pressure (once daily at different times of the day)

  • Get regular check-ups

  • Gather support to accomplish these (friends, family, community)

Medications used to control high blood pressure

  • Diuretics

  • Beta-blockers

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB)

  • Calcium channel blockers (CCB)

  • Alpha-blockers

  • Alpha-2 receptor agonists

  • Combined alpha and beta-blockers

  • Vasodilators

How hypertension leads to heart attack

The strain and damage from prolonged high blood pressure cause the coronary arteries to become narrowed and hardened from plaque — a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances — and increases the risk of blood clots forming.

When an artery becomes blocked due to plaque buildup or a blood clot, the flow of blood through the heart muscle is reduced or stopped, starving the muscle of oxygen and nutrients. The resulting damage or death of part of the heart muscle is a heart attack.

Hypertension causes more than heart disease

It can cause many complications throughout the body, especially in places where there are very tiny arteries present.

  • Aneurysms

  • Stroke (TIA or CVA)

  • Thinking and memory problems

  • Kidney disease and failure

  • Vision loss

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

  • Other hypertensive crises

Talk with your loved one's provider about ideal blood pressure, weight, and diet, as well as the support available for achieving it. Many health plans have screening benefits, as well as benefits for exercise, nutrition, and monitoring devices (such as a blood pressure cuff).

RESOURCES

American College of Cardiology (ACC)

American Heart Association (AHA)

National Institutes of Health Heart Lung & Blood Institute - The Heart Truth

World Heart Federation

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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