If you have heart failure, there's a good chance you also have high blood pressure, or "hypertension." About two-thirds of people whose hearts can't pump enough blood because of the condition also have high BP or used to.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart failure. That's because the force pushing on the walls of your arteries as blood moves through them is too strong. That pressure hurts your arteries and makes tiny tears in them that can turn into scar tissue, which makes it easier for cholesterol, fat, and other things to build up. That causes your vessels narrow and stiffen.
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Over time, these things make it harder for blood to flow through your vessels. That forces your heart to work harder than usual. After a while, your ticker can't keep up. It gets thicker and larger, and it doesn't pump blood quite as well.
That brings the fatigue, breathlessness, and other symptoms people with heart failure deal with.
Keeping your blood pressure in check can help you avoid heart failure -- and it's also important if you already have the condition. High BP can make it get worse. If you have heart failure, your doctor may ask you to get your blood pressure down to lower levels than others.
Eat a healthy diet, don't smoke, and get exercise to help lower your BP. Have heart failure? You'll probably need to take medicine, too. Your doctor may prescribe a calcium channel blocker, an ACE inhibitor, or an angiotensin II receptor blocker.
Certain medicines, like diuretics or "water pills," also help lessen the buildup of fluid that's common with the condition.
Regular checkups are key, but your doctor will probably want you to watch your blood pressure, too. Keeping tabs on it at home -- and working closely with your doctor -- can make a big difference, studies show. Ask him if you should chart the measurements you take yourself. Keeping a log can help provide a picture of your progress.