Raising Awareness for American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month. If someone you care about has been diagnosed with hypertensive heart disease, now is the perfect time for you to learn more about it and the different symptoms associated with each type.

Hypertensive heart disease refers to heart conditions caused by high blood pressure and is the Number 1 cause of death associated with high blood pressure. It is not a single disease; rather, it refers to a group of disorders that includes heart failure, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and left ventricular hypertrophy.

Heart failure: Refers to a heart that is weakened and is pumping less efficiently than normal, or that it is less elastic than normal. It does not mean that the heart has stopped working. The result of heart failure is that blood circulates through the heart’s chambers less effectively, and pressure inside the heart increases. Symptoms of heart failure include –

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, or abdomen
  • Difficulty sleeping flat in bed
  • Bloating
  • Irregular pulse
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Greater need to urinate at night

Ischemic Heart Disease: Usually the result of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries (coronary artery disease), which hinders blood flow to the heart causing heart muscle to not get enough blood. Symptoms of ischemic heart disease include –

  • Chest pain that radiates to the arms, neck, back, or jaw
  • Chest pain, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, and dizziness (these symptoms may occur with or without chest pain)
  • Irregular pulse
  • Fatigue and weakness

Note: Any of these symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.

Hypertensive Heart Disease: When the force of blood pushing against artery walls is higher than the determined healthy level, causing damage to artery walls and leading to other forms of heart disease and stroke. The symptoms of hypertension are not obvious, which results in the disease left undiagnosed over 30 % of the time. Signs of hypertension include –

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Enlarged heart and irregular heart beat
  • Fluid in lungs or around extremities
  • Unusual heart sounds

Left Ventricular Hypertrophy (LVH): Is the excessive thickening of the myocardium (muscle) of the heart’s left ventricle (left pumping chamber). Sometimes there are no symptoms of LVH at all. When symptoms do occur, it is after the onset of LVH complications. These symptoms include –

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, particularly after activity
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat, or pounding or fluttering in the chest

While the rate of heart disease related deaths has decreased from 54 percent in 1964 to below 32 percent currently, it is still the Number 1 cause of death among Americans and claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. And, contrary to popular belief, heart disease isn’t just for men! More women continue to die from heart disease and stroke each year than do men.