Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, occurs when blood flows through the arteries with too much force. Left untreated over time, hypertension can cause other heart disorders, collectively called hypertensive heart disease. Two of the most common hypertensive heart disorders are hypertensive coronary artery disease and hypertensive left ventricular hypertrophy.
Hypertension causes arteries to stretch beyond a healthy limit, resulting in tears in artery walls. Though the body naturally repairs these tears with scar tissue, that tissue also traps plaque and white blood cells, which can turn into blockages, blood clots and hardened, weakened arteries. When this process occurs in the arteries that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood (coronary arteries), the result can be a decrease in heart function (heart failure) or a heart attack.
Hypertension also causes the heart to have to work harder to move blood through the body. Like any muscle, this increased workout results in the wall of the heart thickening and hardening, most notably in the left ventricle, the chamber primarily responsible for pumping blood out to the rest of the body. These changes in the ventricle wall can eventually decrease the heart’s pumping capability. This condition is called hypertensive left ventricular hypertrophy.
Common symptoms of hypertensive heart disease include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain (angina), especially after exertion
- Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (palpitations)
Left untreated, hypertensive heart disease can lead to heart failure, stroke, heart attack and kidney disease.
The good news is that hypertension can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, and the sooner the condition is discovered, the less serious damage it will cause to your heart.
If you are a woman who has hypertension or simply wants to learn more about your potential risk for heart disease, call 404-778-7777 to schedule a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment with an Emory Women’s Heart Center specialist.
About Dr. Lundberg
Gina Price Lundberg, MD, FACC , is the clinical director of the Emory Women’s Heart Center and a preventive cardiologist with Emory Clinic in East Cobb. Dr. Lundberg is an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
She is a national American Heart Association (AHA) spokesperson and was a board member for the Atlanta chapter from 2001 to 2007. Dr. Lundberg was the Honoree for the AHA’s North Fulton/Gwinnett County Heart Ball for 2006. In 2009, she was awarded the Women with Heart Award at the Go Red Luncheon for outstanding dedication to the program. She is also a Circle of Red founding member and Cor Vitae member for the AHA.
She has been interviewed on the subject of heart disease in women by multiple media outlets, including CNN and USA Today. In 2007, Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Dr. Lundberg to the advisory board of the Georgia Department of Women’s Health, where she served until 2011. In 2005, Atlanta Woman magazine awarded Dr. Lundberg the Top 10 Innovator Award for Medicine. In 2008, Atlanta Woman named her one of the Top 25 Professional Women to Watch and the only woman in the field of medicine.
Dr. Lundberg attended the Medical College of Georgia and trained in internal medicine at Atlanta Medical Center (Georgia Baptist). She completed her cardiology fellowship at Rush University in Chicago. She has been in practice in Atlanta since 1994. She is board certified in cardiology and internal medicine and was recertified in both in 2002. Dr. Lundberg has two children and considers motherhood her first and foremost career. Dr. Lundberg has lived most of her life in the metro Atlanta area.
About the Emory Women’s Heart Center
Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to screening for, preventing and treating heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned cardiologist Gina Lundberg, MD, provides comprehensive cardiac risk assessments and screenings for patients at risk for heart disease, as well as a full range of treatment options for women already diagnosed with heart disease. Call 404-778-7777 to schedule a comprehensive cardiac screening and find out if you are at risk for heart disease.