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The Link Between High Blood Pressure & Heart Attacks

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Updated December 09, 2006

What is a Heart Attack?:

Your heart is a muscle. Like all muscles in your body, it can only work properly if it has

  • A constant supply of oxygen
  • Reserves of energy and nutrients
  • A way to remove harmful waste products
When any of these things are interrupted, the heart can be damaged and lose its ability to effectively pump blood. A heart attack happens when, for various reasons, the supply of oxygen to the heart is interrupted.

Supplying the Heart With Oxygen:

The heart is supplied with oxygen by a special group of blood vessels, called the coronary vessels. Because there are hundreds of millions of cells in the heart, and they all need oxygen, there is a specialized way that each cell gets the oxygen it needs.
  1. The coronary vessels bring blood to the outside of the heart
  2. Oxygen passes from the blood, to the outermost cells of the heart wall
  3. The oxygen passes through these cells, and down into the deeper cells of the heart.

How High Blood Pressure Causes Problems:

Lifting weights makes your muscles get bigger. Essentially, lifting weights is just making your muscles do work. Blood pressure is like weight lifting for the heart, and high blood pressure means your heart has to work extra hard to pump blood. Just like arms or legs, this extra work makes the heart get bigger. The heart can get so big that oxygen delivery is just enough to keep things going, and any extra demand on the heart (exercise) disrupts the flow of oxygen, causing a heart attack.

Things to Watch For:

Heart attack is a serious and potentially life threatening event, so it is important to know the warning signs that might indicate a heart attack

  • A dull pain or pressure in your chest or upper arms (not just the left!)
  • Sudden difficulty breathing
  • Heavy sweating without heavy exercise
  • "Heavyness" or nausea, especially after doing strenuous work
Remember
  1. "Hard Work" is different for everyone
  2. Symptoms can occur at any time
Any of these symptoms warrant an immediate visit to the hosptial.

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