Coronary artery disease and heart attack
High blood pressure causes excess strain and damages the walls of the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaque build-up). Atherosclerosis causes narrowings or blockages in the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. This condition is known as coronary artery disease.
Severe narrowings may cause angina (or chest pain), decreased effort tolerance and may even trigger a heart attack. A heart attack is serious and may be life-threatening as parts of the heart muscle become damaged and unable to function.
Heart failure is a condition where your heart is unable to pump blood effectively to the rest of the body, and this can lead to swelling in your legs and fluid in your lungs, making it hard to breathe.
High blood pressure adds to your heart’s workload. The narrowed blood vessels caused by hypertension are less elastic, making it more difficult for the blood to travel smoothly and easily throughout your body. This causes your heart to work harder.
Over time, a higher workload leads to an enlarged heart. In order to cope with the higher workload, the heart muscle thickens (called left ventricular hypertrophy, or LVH) and becomes larger. The heart muscle becomes less efficient in pumping blood. The larger the heart becomes, the harder it has to work to meet your body’s demands for oxygen and nutrients.
Heart failure tends to get worse over time, but early diagnosis and treatment can help relieve symptoms and stop or delay the condition from getting worse. In an extremely weak heart, the heart may develop an abnormal and sometimes fatal arrhythmia (heart rhythm), causing a sudden cardiac arrest.