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How does high blood pressure affect the heart?

High blood pressure (or hypertension) affects the heart similar to the way weights affect muscles. When we lift weights, our muscles tend to get big and strong and thick. However, the heart is a muscle. Blood pressure is a weight that the heart has to pump against. The problem with the heart pumping against the elevated blood pressure is, the heart then starts to get thick and, unlike our outside muscles which gives us strength, when the heart gets thick it becomes stiff. It then leads to things such as heart failure. We can have stroke. We can have a high risk of heart disease and heart attacks as well. Over time, it can also affect vision and kidney function. So, it’s very important to get high blood pressure under control.
 
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High blood pressure makes the heart work harder, contributes to hardening of the arteries, and increases the frequency of angina (chest pain that is the heart's response to a lack of oxygen), as well as the risk of heart attack and stroke. Have your blood pressure checked. If it is high, follow your doctor's recommendations about a low-fat, low-salt diet, increased exercise, and any medication that may be needed.

Cardiovascular specialist Dr. Merle Myerson explains how high blood pressure affects the heart. Watch Dr. Myerson's video for important tips and information about heart health.


Dr. Merle Myerson - How does high blood pressure affect the heart?
Steven V. Gurland, MD
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As your blood pressure elevates the amount of stress on your heart muscle increases. The extra workload will over time enlarge your heart. Your heart's ability to function properly will also be diminished if the stress from the elevated pressure is not treated.
When blood pressure increases, our hearts adjust by pumping harder. This is because the arteries -- the blood vessels that take oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and deliver it to our bodies -- become stiffer and less flexible with age. This stiffening and loss of flexibility causes blood pressure to increase. Researchers have noted that the wall of the left ventricles of our hearts become thicker with age. This thickening allows our hearts to pump more strongly against the resistance of stiff arteries.
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High blood pressure can damage your arteries, restrict blood flow to your organs, and increase the work of the heart. If not controlled, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and other health problems.
High blood pressure causes the heart to pump against very high pressure. To compensate, the heart thickens or enlarges to cope with the high pressure. As a result, the heart becomes stiffer and does not relax as well so blood cannot come into the heart as efficiently from the lungs and this can lead to heart failure and fluid in the lungs and difficulty breathing. Changes in the heart's geometry can also cause the pump function to eventually fail and can also lead to changes and scarring in the electrical system and to the development of arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure damages the coronary arteries and can lead to coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
High blood pressure can lead to damage to the coronary arteries, leading to coronary artery disease, heart attacks and heart failure.

It can lead to atrial fibrillation, valvular heart disease and weakening of the heart muscle or cardiomyopathy. It can lead to thickening of the muscle of the heart and angina.  
High blood pressure can cause the walls of the heart to thicken, because the heart muscle has to work harder to pump blood against the increased pressure. Watch Dr. Oz explain the effects of high blood pressure on the heart.
What High Blood Pressure Does to the Heart
If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension), you have an increased chance for atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is a very common health condition in the US, affecting men and women of all ages--even children. The problem with high blood pressure is that it causes no outward symptoms for years, so you may be unaware of the damage it is causing. Uncontrolled hypertension greatly increases the chance of serious problems such as stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure can be easily detected with a simple blood pressure test. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and, if it is high, be sure you take the medications as prescribed.

Continue Learning about Hypertension

Hypertension

Hypertension

Clinically known as hypertension, high blood pressure can cause a host of problems if left untreated. The most common type of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure causes our hearts to work harder by forcing blood to push ag...

ainst the walls of our arteries at an elevated level. Hypertension is the leading cause of strokes and heart attack. It also increases your risk of having heart and kidney failure and hardening of the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.