The Connection Between High Blood Pressure & Heart Failure

Tuesday 1 December 2020
Cardiovascular Disorders

Table of Contents


I. How Common are Heart Problems?

II. What is High Blood Pressure?

a. Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

III. The Complications of High Blood Pressure

a. Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis)

b. Heart Failure

c. Organ Damage

IV. Medications for High Blood Pressure & Heart Failure

a. Diuretics

b. Beta-Blockers

c. Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs)


How Common are Heart Problems? 

Heart problems are incredibly prevalent in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, someone dies of a heart-related problem every 36 seconds. These numbers are staggering and continue to rise every year. Several lifestyle factors contribute to these statistics, including diets high in fat and sugar. [1]

The health of the heart is indicative of the entire body’s health. If your heart is not functioning properly, your body may experience severe complications, like heart attack, coronary artery disease, or heart failure. These conditions may prove deadly if they are not treated with medications like Lasix (furosemide), Diovan (valsartan), triamterene/HCTZ, Aldactone (spironolactone), or Inderal (propranolol hydrochloride).

High blood pressure (HBP) and cardiovascular diseases are interconnected, and most people have HBP along with heart problems. It is essential to lower your blood pressure levels before they result in a serious cardiac condition. Learn more about the connection between HBP and heart problems, along with common symptoms and treatments of heart disorders. [1]

What is High Blood Pressure? 

Blood pressure is the measurement of blood pushing against the artery walls. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body. Blood pressure is not a stagnant number and fluctuates throughout the day. Fluctuations are normal, but if your blood pressure remains high for long periods, you may begin to experience heart problems.

a doctor taking someone’s blood pressure

The systolic and diastolic pressure measures blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when the heartbeats. The diastolic measures the arterial pressure when the heart rests between beats. This number is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and records the systolic number followed by diastolic, for example, 120/80 mm HG). [2] Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure (HBP). There are two types of high blood pressure:

Primary hypertension: This type occurs when there is no known cause for your HBP. This type occurs slowly over a person’s life and is typically a result of long-term factors, like lifestyle, environment, and body changes.

Secondary hypertension: Other medical conditions cause this type of blood pressure. You may develop secondary hypertension if you have kidney problems, sleep apnea, thyroid or adrenal gland problems, or take certain medications. [3]

a. Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can be a silent killer because it does not present many symptoms. You can only confirm you have high blood pressure if you get your blood pressure measured. Your doctor can take this measurement at your annual checkup, and many pharmacies have blood pressure monitoring machines. If your blood pressure reaches extremely high levels, you may experience:

  • Severe headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood in the urine
  • Fatigue or confusion
  • Nosebleed [4]

The Complications of High Blood Pressure

A large majority of heart problems occur as a result of high blood pressure. This happens because increased pressure on the artery walls strains the heart. It makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body. Over time, the heart's left ventricle will begin to thicken, which can increase the risk of heart attack and heart failure. [5] If you have HBP, you may experience:

a. Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis)

Experiencing long-term high blood pressure can damage the artery walls. This damage makes it more likely that you will experience narrowing of the arteries and plaque buildup. Plaque buildup is caused by bad cholesterol (LDL), causing fatty deposits to get caught in the damaged artery walls. Atherosclerosis is a common cause of heart attack and stroke. There are usually no atherosclerosis symptoms, but you may experience an unusual heartbeat, shortness of breath, or pain in the chest or arms. [6]

b. Heart failure

Heart failure is the end stage of high blood pressure-related diseases. Once someone is in heart failure, it is difficult to get the heart back to one hundred percent functioning. This condition occurs when the heart is unable to get enough blood to the body. The heart’s workload becomes unsustainable because of narrowed arteries caused by high blood pressure and plaque buildup. The arteries lose their elasticity, leading to hardened pathways for blood to flow. To cope with these problems, the heart thickens, grows larger, and becomes less efficient. [7] On average, those diagnosed with heart failure have a 60 percent mortality rate within five years of diagnosis. [8] 

Emergency medical personnel putting someone in an ambulance

c. Organ Damage

If the heart cannot pump a sufficient amount of blood to the body, virtually every organ in the body may be affected. The kidneys are commonly affected because they filter excess fluid and waste from the body. If the blood vessels leading to the kidneys are damaged, they cannot process this waste, causing a buildup of fluids in the body. This may cause kidney scarring and kidney failure.

The eyes are full of tiny delicate blood vessels. If these vessels are damaged by high blood pressure, you may damage the retina (retinopathy), causing vision loss. If blood flow to the optic nerve is blocked, then bleeding within the eye can occur, causing vision loss. [5] 

Medications for High Blood Pressure & Heart Failure

Because heart problems are so common, several medications are available to improve symptoms and delay severe complications. Once you are diagnosed with HBP, you must tailor your lifestyle to make it as heart-healthy as possible. If you begin to engage in cardio exercise and eat well, you can significantly lower your chances of your HBP turning into heart disease or heart failure. If you end up with heart disease or heart failure, your doctor will likely prescribe several medications to keep your heart in working order. [9] 

a. Diuretics

These drugs are also known as water pills and remove excess salt and water from the body. Diuretics are used to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of other cardiovascular disorders. There are three types of pharmaceutical diuretics:

Thiazide: These diuretics widen the blood vessels, allowing for easier blood flow and extra fluid removal. They act directly on the kidneys and promote urination, allowing the kidneys to remove waste. This process reduces the risk of kidney disease and kidney failure.

Loop diuretics: This type is used in the treatment of heart failure. During heart failure, fluid accumulates in the body because the heart is not pumping as well as it should. The fluid is staying trapped in the body when the body would normally expel it. Loop diuretics like Lasix (furosemide) interfere with the transport of salt and water among kidney cells. These cells are referred to as Henle's loop, which is where the name of this diuretic is derived. It allows more fluid to pass out of the kidneys, relieving edema and breathlessness caused by fluid buildup in the lungs. [10]

Potassium-sparing: These types of diuretics are used for those who have low potassium levels. In other diuretics, many nutrients get flushed out of the body with the excess fluids. This can lead to a loss of potassium, so drugs like Aldactone (spironolactone) and triamterene/HCTZ target specific parts of the kidney to rid the body of excess sodium without causing a loss of potassium. You may need to eat more bananas, avocados, or leafy greens if you have low potassium levels. [9]

bananas next to glasses of water

b. Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers are common medications used to treat high blood pressure and other accompanying heart problems. These drugs work by blocking the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). This makes your heart beat more slowly and less forcefully, reducing your blood pressure. Beta-blockers like Inderal (propranolol hydrochloride) can also open your veins and arteries, making blood flow easier. These drugs are typically prescribed if diuretics do not work efficiently. They can improve symptoms of:

  • Chest pain
  • Migraines
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Certain types of tremors [11]

c. Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) 

Within the blood, there is a chemical called angiotensin II. This powerful chemical causes the muscles around the blood vessels to contract and narrow. When ARBs are taken, this action is blocked, causing the blood vessels to enlarge and reduce blood pressure. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) is also commonly used but prevents angiotensin II formation rather than blocking the binding of angiotensin II chemicals to the muscles surrounding blood vessels. Diovan (valsartan) is one commonly prescribed ARB. [12]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.