High Blood Pressure and Your Heart

You know that high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, but how? Over years, due to aging and certain unhealthy lifestyle habits, blood pressures tend to increase. Such an increase affects many parts your body, with these affects then increasing your chance for heart disease.

Your Blood Vessels

When blood pressure is elevated, the walls of your blood vessels become thickened and less elastic. This thickening makes it harder for blood to flow through your vessels, and the decrease in elasticity causes greater damage to the vessel walls. Such damage causes plaques to form, a major contributor to heart attacks and strokes. Over time this thickening and loss of elasticity further decreases the ability of blood vessels to relax and respond appropriately to your body's hormonal signals. The inability of blood vessels to relax further increases blood pressure, and the cycle continues. The connectedness of your blood vessels and heart is so strong that you really can't think of disease in either one in isolation. This is why, instead of heart disease, the more appropriate term is cardiovascular disease, referring to both your heart (cardio) and your blood vessels (vascular). This connectedness also reveals why heart disease is linked to so many other forms of vascular disease, such as strokes and peripheral vascular disease. If your heart is disturbed, it's likely the body's blood vessels are as well, and vice-versa, which puts many other organs at risk.

Your Heart

The increased pressure also means the heart has to pump blood with a greater force. when the heart has to pump harder, it remodels itself to be able to pump with greater strength. Though certain types of remodeling of the heart can be healthy—such as the remodeling athletes’ hearts undergo as they build muscle to accommodate exercise—this type can be dangerous. As the heart builds more muscle to pump against the higher blood pressure, the heart muscle thickens. The heart may thicken so much that it actually becomes difficult for blood to flow into the heart, leading to the backup of fluid into the lungs or congestive heart failure.

In addition, the greater demand on the heart, as well as the thick muscle, means the heart requires more blood and oxygen to supply this demand. Unfortunately, many people with high blood pressure actually have atherosclerosis in the blood vessels that feed the heart. So while the heart in a person with high blood pressure may need extra blood flow, often blood is hindered by the buildup of plaque due to cardiovascular disease and the thickening of the blood vessels due to high blood pressure. In other words, there may be decreased blood flow in the hearts that need it most, and as mentioned, when there's not enough blood flow to meet the heart's demand, problems may range from the heart getting irritated by the lack of oxygen to a severe heart attack.

Your Organs

When the blood vessels feeding your organs do not function well, thereby upsetting the flow of oxygen and other nutrient-carrying blood to your organs, they cannot function properly. This may occur as a sudden change from a plaque breaking off, such as in your heart, brain, legs, or abdomen. This can also occur as a progressive dysfunction as well. For example, when kidneys are constantly exposed to higher blood pressure, they do not work as well. This is especially important in the kidneys because they have a vital role in regulating blood pressure. So when the kidney does not work as well due to problems such as high blood pressure, you may face even higher blood pressure. This higher blood pressure occurs in addition to all sorts of other medical problems that occur when kidneys do not function as well. Once again, cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, when not dealt with and corrected, can get caught in a vicious, worsening cycle.

High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent diseases in society, and its prevalence increases as the population ages because blood pressure gets higher as humans age. Because of its prevalence and the harm it can cause when unrecognized, decreasing high blood pressure is one of the most effective preventative measures you have for reducing cardiovascular disease.

Read More BLANK
  1. Home
  2. Preventing Heart Disease
  3. BLANK
  4. High Blood Pressure and Your Heart
Visit other About.com sites: