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Blood Pressure's Effect on Heart Health


Blood Pressure's Effect on Heart Health


High blood pressure (hypertension) causes many different health issues that can directly or indirectly affect the heart. Many people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms, allowing the condition to go untreated unless it is discovered during a physical or other testing. Hypertension can ultimately result in a heart attack or stroke, unless it is treated effectively.

How blood pressure directly affects the heart

Chronic high blood pressure causes direct damage to a person's heart by exerting constant pressure on the blood vessels and arteries, while making the heart muscle work harder to pump blood through the body. Over time, this hard work causes the heart muscle to become enlarged. Unlike other muscles in the body, an enlarged heart is unhealthy because the tissue stiffens and cannot work as efficiently. Over time, the continued strain of untreated high blood pressure weakens the heart until it fails, causing heart attacks, heart failure or sudden cardiac death.

Indirect effects of blood pressure

When people have uncontrolled high blood pressure, the heart suffers indirectly in certain ways. Artery walls thicken and become more susceptible to plaque build-up, which makes it harder for blood to flow efficiently back to the heart. This drives blood pressure up even more, causing chest pain, arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and heart attack. Additionally, certain parts of a person's arterial walls may weaken and bulge, potentially causing an aneurysm. This could lead to stroke or heart attack.

Additional complications

Untreated hypertension can also cause other health complications that may create additional stress for the heart. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop "metabolic syndrome," which includes high levels of the bad LDL cholesterol, low levels of good HDL cholesterol, high insulin levels, high triglycerides and weight gain around the waist area. High blood pressure in blood vessels leading the the eyes and kidneys are often ruptured or blocked, leading to loss of eyesight, kidney failure or stroke.

Having regular medical check-ups and staying on top of blood pressure readings is the first important step to catching high blood pressure before it causes damage to the heart. High blood pressure can wreak havoc on a person's heart, arteries and other internal organs. Many people maintain healthy blood pressure and protect their hearts by following their doctor's recommendations for diet, exercise and other treatments to keep the blood vessels clear and the heart working properly.

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