Posts Tagged ‘hypertension’

Systemic hypertension (SHT )  is the commonest  clinical entity encountered in cardiology consultations . 95 % of  HT is considered primary. The remaining 5 %  form the most important class of HT (Secondary to renal parenchymal, vascular , endocrine,  etc)

How  intelligent is this traditional classification of HT  ?

The incidence of primary and secondary  HT varies depending  upon the level of investigation we do . One of my  regular patient  who gets to me for  HT .He  is 42 year old man  works in financial institution  with lots of work stress and he was marginally obese as well .  He was investigated for all known cause of secondary HT and every parameter  was found to be normal and was being treated as   primary HT.

When he was about to leave my clinic he  bowled  this google !

Doctor , why do  you call  mine as  primary HT   ?  . . . When you yourself  say  my stress and weight is responsible for  high blood pressure ?

Primary vs secondary HT

Valid question is it not !  . .  . I told him   “somehow”  ,   we have not  been taught   in medical schools  , to consider stress  of life  as a factor  responsible for  developing secondary  HT !

Final message

Strange  definitions in medicine continue .  Not every one with high stress  levels develop HT  .There  are  some unknown factors operating  .Till we know that we  will keep calling them as primary HT .

( Who  knows the  man  who raised this question  may   show up  with adrenal hyperplasia  or a renal parenchymal dysfunction 5  years down the lane !)

We live by perceived  knowledge  on a moment to moment basis  ! . Ignorance  tries  to lock the doors of knowledge .

But we  continue to open new doors . That is the  only  purpose of medical research !

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We presume  ECG  fails miserably against echocardiography for assessing hemodynamics , while  echocardiogram  has  little value  when it comes to studying   electrophysiology .  Ironically ,  we often  ignore  the fact  ,   ECG can  provide  important long-term   hemodynamic  data . The pattern of  chamber enlargement  give us  vital clues to the prevailing hemodynamic  stress and loading conditions. While echo  can be termed as an  anatomical and  physiologic   modality  , ECG  apart from  its unique capacity to record cardiac  electrical finger prints ,  it  provides  useful ,  anatomical ,  hemodynamic information too !

While Doppler is a  fascinating modality to measure hemodynamic data in a moment to moment fashion it can never ever tell us  , what has been going around in the preceding months or years. This  is were chamber size helps which  give us chronic physiological information (Chronic  Doppler ?)

A simple E:A reversal  in  mitral inflow doppler can be a  innocuous  finding in isolation  . If it is associated with even   minimal grades of  LAE  it gains huge importance. That is why left atrial size is  funnily referred to as HB A1C of diastolic dysfunction ( A marker of chronicity  of  diastolic dysfunction)

If LAE is so important to diagnose diastolic dysfunction , why  we are so  obsessed  with doppler filling profiles  of mitral valve ,pulmonary veins, mitral annular tissue Doppler and what not ! .Many of these sophisticated doppler methods are extremely operator dependent  and are  subjected  to technical and mathematical errors. Especially , with  tissue doppler where we  magnify the errors as we  filter  extremely  slow tissue motion .

For  many  decades  we  have failed  to impress ourselves  , about the importance of subtle P wave abnormalities in the  ECGs   of  hypertensive patients.

In fact those  innocuous looking  slurs and notches   in P waves ,  suggest the left atrial  stress and a definite marker of underlying LV diastolic dysfunction .

P wave is the only electrical wave that occur in diastole .Hence there is no surprise  ,i  gives us enormous information about this phase of cardiac cycle .

If only we look  at them carefully, zoom it (Now it is made easy with so many softwares)  analyse critically we can find a wealth of information about the atrial behavior in hypertension.

Experience from our hypertension clinic  with periodic echocardiograms suggest ,  the following  ECG  findings   can be   good markers  of significant  diastolic dysfunction .

  1. Notched P wave
  2. Wide  P waves
  3. Slurred  P wave
  4. Bi-phasic P waves

* Surprisingly  , these abnormalities correlated with at least grade 1 diastolic dysfunction even in the absence of  for LAE or LVH by echocardiogram.

** In an  occasional patient  P waves  can widen due to inter atrial block or conduction delay. This a rare exception for wide P waves without LAE.

Final message

A well recorded and   analysed   ECG can  predict diastolic dysfunction  with fair  degree of accuracy .This fact need to be emphasized  by every one  .  Next to ECG ,  LA size and volume  by 2d echo are excellent parameters  to assess diastolic function in a long term fashion. Sophisticated  but  error prone ,  momentary doppler parameters are getting too much attention  at the cost of simple ,  shrewd ECG and 2D echo  !

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  1. Do 64slice MDCT  in all patients who has  a coronary event and follow it up with catheter based CAG.
  2. Use liberally the new biochemical marker ,  serum  B-naturetic peptide (BNP) to diagnose cardiac failure in lieu of basal auscultation.
  3. Advice  cardiac resynchronisation therapy in all patients  who are in class 4 cardiac failure with a wide qrs complex .
  4. As it is may be considered a  crime to administer empirical  heparin, do ventilation perfusion scan in all cases with suspected pulmonary embolism.
  5. Do serial CPK MB and troponin levels in all patients with well  established  STEMI .
  6. Open up all occluded coronary arteries irrespective  of symptoms and muscle viability.
  7. Consider  ablation of pulmonary veins as an  initial strategy in  patients with recurrent idiopathic AF. If it is not feasible  atleast occlude their left atrial appendage with watch man  device.
  8. Never tell  your patients   the  truths  about the  diet , exercise &  lifestyle modification (That can  cure most of the early hypertension) . Instead encourage the  use of  newest ARBs  or even  try direct renin antoagonists   to treat all those patients in  stage 1 hypertension.
  9. Avoid regular heparin in acute coronary syndromes   as  it  is a disgrace to use it  in today’s world. Replace all prescription of heparin with  enoxaparine  or  still better ,  fondaparinux  whenever  possible.
  10. Finally never discharge  a  heftily  insured patient   until  he completes all the  cardiology investigations  that are available in your hospital  .

Coming soon :  10 more ways to  increase cost of cardiology care . . .beyond common man’s reach

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  • Hypertension  is  major determinant of cardiovascular health  of our global population
  • Millions suffer,   hundreds of societies ,  and as many guidelines , and drugs are still struggling  to control the menace.
  • An important sub group of HT , (ie IDH ) population has been neglected and never received the scientific interest , which it deserves !
  • In our study it occured in 7.2% of all HT  patients.
  • JNC,  the world authority on HT never considered  IDH as a separate entity, and as of now there is no specific guidelines.
  • And the irony is complete . There is not  a  major study available to analyse the differential effects of anti hypertensive drugs on systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

If  a patient with the BP of 120/96 asks you , “Doctor , will the drug,   you have prescribed , selectively lower my diastolic blood pressure ” what will be your answer ?

A clear ,  I don”t know !

The following paper was presented in the World congress of cardiology Sydney  2002

Isolated  Diastolic Hypertension

S.Venkatesan,S.D.Jayaraj.Gnanavelu, Madras Medical College. Madras, India.

Abstract : Systemic  hypertension  continues to  be a major determinant of cardiovascular  morbidity. While isolated systolic hypertension(ISH) has been identified as a specific clinical entity, isolated  diastolic  hypertension(IDH) has not been reported as a separate group. When we analysed our data from our hypertension   clinic  we found  a distinct subgroup of patients who had  elevated  diastolic blood pressure   with  normal systolic pressure. We report the clinical profile of these patients. 440 newly registered hypertensive  patients between the year 1998-99  formed the study population. All  patients with secondary hypertension  were excluded.. IDH  was defined as  diastolic BP more than 90mmhg and systolic BP less than 140mmhg.

IDH was present in 32(7.2%) patients.  The male female ratio was 3:1, mean age was 42(Range32-56) The mean diastolic pressure was 96 mm (Range 90-110).The mean systolic pressure was 136mm(Range 128-140). LVH was observed in 4 patients(12.5%). Diastolic dysfunction was detected by echocardiography   in 20patients.(62%)

We conclude that isolated diastolic hypertension  constitute a  significant subset among  hypertensive  patients and they need further study regarding the pathogenesis, clinical  presentation and  therapeutic implication.

Link to PPT  will be available soon .

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Let us not forget the basics !

  • HT management has been made  easier with the availability of  many  good drugs , at the same time it has become a complex  issue with as many classification and guidelines.
  • The management of HT has evolved over the decades. Now we have realised  HT  is not a simple number game . Reducing the blood pressure to target levels is not  sufficient and is not the primary aim !.
  • In fact we now know controlling the numbers alone is never going to work  , combined risk factor reduction is of paramount importance.
  • HT per se is less lethal but when it combines with hyperlipidemia and diabetes or smoking  it becomes  aggressive.The blood lipids  especially the LDL molecule  enjoy the high pressure environment  ,   penetrate and invade the vascular endothelium.
  • ASCOT  LLA  study has taught us,   for blood pressure reduction to  be effective and reduce CAD  events one has to reduce thier  lipid levels also.So , for every patient with HT there is not only a target BP but also a target LDL level .



Final message

The tip for better vascular  health is  , all  hypertensive patients should keep their lipids to optimal levels and all hyperlipidemia patients should keep their BP as low as possible .

“Keep your LDL  as low as  your diastolic blood pressure  and  let us  keep it around 70 -80

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                                Hypertension is the most common clinical  cardiovascular entity.Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is  an important consequence of  HT.In fact, it is considered as a end organ effect or damage. Others being brain, kidney, and peripheral vascular disease.Knowing about LVH is important because it has been linked to increased cardiovascular events.


                              Though LVH is considered  as a close companion of  HT  it is  surprising  only a minority (15-30%)  show evidence of LVH .Some  experienced clinicians (Level C evidence)  quote even lower < 10 %  .Traditionally LVH was detected by ECG and now it is replaced by echocardiography.

What determines the LVH ?

It will be suprising to note , answer to this question  is  still not  clear .

  • Is it the duration of elevated blood pressure ?
  •  Is it the absolute level of blood pressure ?
  • If so , is it  the systolic BP  , diastolic BP or the mean BP ?
  • Or is it related to the etiology of HT ?
  • There has been no significant correlation between the above parameters

When we don’t know  the answer to a question in medicine , the answer will  generally will be inside the genes !

So in HT also the major determinant of LVH is in the genes that determine the myosin heavy chain  response .

and also ACE gene polymorphism.ACE genes are involved in the expression of growth factors within the myocardium.

An excellent study  on the issue http://www.nature.com/jhh/journal/v17/n3/full/1001523a.html#tbl1

It implicates , gender, age, race etc in the genesis of LVH

Final message

So , the  myocardium does not respond with LVH   in all patients with HT.It happens only in a minority* .Duration of HT can be an important determinant , but  the major factor is  the alteration of genetic switches  within the myocytes How this switches are going to  behave ,  is largely inherited .Regression of LVH is also not uniform again implying lesser role for hemodynamics. (Some studies revealed ACEI have maximum regression  of LVH , later disputed )

*LVH is more consistently seen  in hypertension due to reno vascular  or parenchymal disorders .It is also an observed fact , a  combination of diabetes and HT is more likely to result in  LVH.

The other major issue  that needs explanation in HT/LVH  is   , how much of LVH is due to  myocyte hypertrophy perse  and how much is contributed by interstitial cell hypertrophy(Non myocytic hypertrophy)

This issue will be discussed soon

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                                     Hypertension is considered a major cardiovascular risk factor.Hypertension  can have multiple physiological and pathological effects on heart . The common response to  raised arterial pressure is the hypertrophy of the left ventricle ( LVH). This can increase the risk of heart failure in few ( Mainly diastolic failure)  It is a leading cause for stroke  and   less often a  coronary event.

What links Hypertension and  coronary artery disease

                                           Coronary artery disease is almost synonymous with atherosclerosis. There is no separate entity called hypertensive coronary artery disease. But HT can accelerate the process of atherosclerosis. It is widely understood, hypertension can cause  physical endothelial damage and functional impairment of endothelial function.The physical damage ie enothelial disruption , or erosion is a very uncommon phenomenon . So currently  there is sufficient clinical experience  HT is considered dangerous for coronary artery only if it is with the  company of diabetes and hyperlipidemia. (This will seem controversial as it is against the findings of iconic Framingham trial!)

What the medical community refers to hypertension , may not be really so inside  for the coronary arteries.

                                             The relationship between brachial cuff blood pressure and the intra coronary pressure has very little linear relationship. So one should recognise it is the intra coronary hypertension that has a immediate impact on the coronary events. Now only , we are beginning to understand the complexities  of the relationship between HT and CAD. If we analyse a series of individuals HT per se is not a very serious risk factor for CAD* , but it is a number one risk factor for stroke. 

Why HT in isolation  often result in stroke , rather than a MI ?

While HT  is notoriously common to result  intracerebral hemorrhage, the same HT  would not cause  intramyocardial bleeds . Why ?

What is protecting the myocardium against this complication ?

                                      The exact mechanism  is not clear.Acute surges of blood pressure can increase the risk of stroke many times  but  rarely precipitate  a coronary event(  But may cause a LVF) . The reasons could be the coronary endothelial shearing stress is less than the cerebral blood vessels.Both cerebral and coronary circulation has  auto regulatory mechanism . The coronary auto regulation is more robust in that it does not allow  intra coronary pressures to reach critical levels .There is no clinically relevant intra myocardial hemorrhage reported  even during malignant hypertension.

*But a  high intra coronary pressure can sometimes  result in spontaneous coronary dissection and plaque fissure .Lipid mediated injury is vey much facilitated in a high pressure environment.

Has Controlling blood pressure  to optimal levels  , reduced the overall CAD morbidity and mortality ?

                    The answer is yes, ( But not an emphatic yes ! ) Some studies had been equivocal. It is very difficult to say , how much benefit is attributable to BP reduction  per se  and   how much is attributable to indirect effect on atherosclerosis prevention.

Hypertension during ACS

                            High blood pressure during an episode of unstable angina or STEMI can increase the myocardial oxygen demand and worsen the ischemia. It requires optimal control with nitroglycerine ( Preferably ) or beta blocker and ACE inhibitors.Even though HT is commonly associated  with ACS,  one can not be sure the ACS is preciptated by HT. Many times the sympathetic surge during an ACS keeps the blood pressure high.It is a common experience the blood pressure suddenly dropping to normal or hypotensive levels once the pain and anxiety is controlled.

Hypertension during thrombolysis

                           High blood pressure is a relative contraindication for thrombolysis.It need to be emphasised here, It is the  the fear of stroke that make  it contraindicated .The heart can tolerate  thrombolytic agents delivered at high BP .In fact logically ,  hemodynamically and also  practically it is obseved , thrombolytic agents administered at relatively high blood pressure (140-160 systolic) has better thrombolysis than a patient who is lysed at 100mmhg.

                       The coronary pressure head which contain the thrombolytic agent (streptokinase and others ) need to have pressure jet effect on the thrombus.So the  mean coronary perfusion pressure becomes  a critical determinant of success of thrombolysis.

                            It is a paradox of sorts , very high blood pressures are a relative contraindication for thrombolysis and at the same time normal pressure patients fare less well to thrombolysis.

 Final  message

                        Hypertension continues to be a major cardiovascular risk factor.It has direct and indirect effects on the heart.Generally HT is more of a risk factor for stroke than CAD.A slightly high BP ( Just around the  upper limits of normal or just above it ) has a hemodynamic advantage during thrombolysis.(Class C evidence )

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