What’s the link between cardiomyopathy and blood pressure?

Last reviewed: 22 Nov 2022

Medically Reviewed By: Dr Jay Shah

Knowledge base / Cardiovascular diseases What’s the link between cardiomyopathy and blood pressure?

Cardiomyopathy and Blood Pressure: Everything You Need to Know

Cardiomyopathy is a general term for a disease of the heart muscle affecting its size, shape or thickness. This affects the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body and can lead to heart failure.

If you or somebody close to you has just received a diagnosis, you’ll no doubt have lots of questions. So what causes cardiomyopathy? What are the risks? And what’s the link between cardiomyopathy and blood pressure? Read on to learn more.

What is cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy isn’t one condition, but rather an umbrella term for a number of diseases in which the walls of the heart chambers become enlarged, thickened or stiff. This changes the structure of the heart and affects its ability to pump blood around the body. It can also affect the heart’s electrical signals, leading to heartbeat abnormalities.

The two most common types of cardiomyopathy are:

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged, so it can’t squeeze properly to pump blood around the body.
  • Hypertensive cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle thicken. This reduces the size of the heart chambers, meaning they can’t hold as much blood and prevents the walls from relaxing properly.

You may not notice any symptoms at all, especially in the early stages, but they usually appear as the condition advances and can include:

  • Feeling breathless during or after activity and even at rest
  • Swollen legs, ankles and feet
  • A bloated abdomen
  • Coughing while lying down
  • Difficulty lying flat to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • A fast, pounding or fluttering heartbeat
  • Discomfort or pressure in the chest
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting

What causes cardiomyopathy?

Many times the cause of cardiomyopathy is unknown. Sometimes it can be inherited and sometimes it can be acquired as the result of another condition, including high blood pressure (hypertension).

Dilated cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages, but occurs most often in middle age and, according to the Mayo Clinic, is more likely to affect men. Hypertensive cardiomyopathy can develop after exposure to high blood pressure for years, often accelerated by the presence of diabetes, kidney, or heart valve disease. .

Conditions and risk factors that have been linked to acquired cardiomyopathy include:

  • Long-term high blood pressure
  • Damage to heart tissue as a result of heart attack
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
  • Heart valve problems
  • Autoimmune disorders , or autoimmune reactions that cause inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Metabolic disorders including thyroid disease and diabetes
  • Obesity, which makes the heart work harder
  • Build up of abnormal proteins in the organs (amyloidosis)
  • Build up of iron in the heart muscle (hemochromatosis)
  • Long-term alcohol misuse
  • Use of recreational drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and anabolic steroids

Heart failure, cardiomyopathy and blood pressure

Cardiomyopathy puts a person at greater risk of heart failure, where the heart fails to pump enough blood around the body. If weaker or stiffer and less elastic, the heart is less effective in pumping blood around the body. Pressure in the chambers of the heart increase, causing the symptoms that are termed “congestive heart failure.”

So where does blood pressure fit into this? High blood pressure, when left unchecked or unmonitored over time, forces the heart to work harder to pump blood around the body, increasing the risk of cardiomyopathy as well as other heart problems. That extra strain can cause left ventricular hypertrophy, where the lower-left heart chamber thickens. This makes the muscle less able to relax in between heartbeats, which makes it difficult for the heart to fill with enough blood to supply the body’s organs, especially during exercise. It’s at that point you’d experience fatigue, breathlessness and other symptoms of heart failure.

According to WebMD, about two-thirds of people with heart failure also have – or used to have – high blood pressure.

How is cardiomyopathy treated?

While cardiomyopathy can’t be cured, there are lots of effective treatments to help control symptoms. Reassuringly, the British Heart Foundation states that ‘in most cases living with it will not affect your quality or length of life.’

Treatment will depend on the type of cardiomyopathy and the individual, but should always include regular medical care with a physician, and may include medication and hospital procedures such as cardioversion or ablation, or having a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator placed. In rare cases, heart surgery may be required.

Your doctor may also recommend a series of lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Reducing your alcohol intake
  • Controlling your blood pressure by reducing salt and choosing healthier foods
  • Lowering your cholesterol by swapping saturated for unsaturated fats
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Working on reducing stress

The other way you can help yourself is by educating yourself about your own health. You’ll no doubt receive regular checkups, but your doctor will probably want to you keep a close eye on your blood pressure too. Monitoring it at home, and keeping a record to share with healthcare providers, can help you understand and manage your symptoms and get the most appropriate treatment.


Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiomyopathy/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cardiomyopathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20370709

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/blood-pressure-heart-failure

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/low-blood-pressure-when-blood-pressure-is-too-low

Aktiia Team Written by The Aktiia Team

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