How does an underlying disease damage your heart?

Cardiovascular diseases

High blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure is a "widespread disease". About 20 million of the population in Germany have high blood pressure. At first, high blood pressure does not cause any symptoms. Those affected usually do not even notice it. The dangerous thing is that if your blood pressure is permanently too high, there is a risk of damage vital organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes increases. The causes are varied. Lifestyle changes and medication can usually help to lower blood pressure.

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) & Heart Attack

Coronary artery disease (CHD) begins with deposits of fat and connective tissue in the coronary arteries. This leads to constrictions (stenoses) or occlusions of the coronary arteries, so that the heart muscle tissue is no longer adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients. The patients have more or less severe pain, initially when exercising, later at rest (angina pectoris). If the blood flow is severely restricted, heart muscle cells can die due to the lack of oxygen (heart attack).

If the cardiologist wants to determine whether the coronary arteries are narrowed, he examines the vessels with a coronary angiography (heart catheter). Computed tomography (CT angio) and magnetic resonance tomography are also used today to rule out coronary disease.

Heart failure

If the heart is weak (heart failure), the heart is no longer able to pump sufficient blood into the body to supply the organs. Heart failure can result from a variety of causes, such as: B. in high blood pressure, due to cardiac arrhythmias, after a heart attack or heart valve defects. The disease is first treated with medication. In severe cases, a heart transplant may be necessary.


With endocarditis, the heart valves or the inner wall of the heart are inflamed. The inflammation can either be caused directly by bacteria (infectious or bacterial endocarditis) or as a non-infectious late rheumatic reaction (rheumatic fever) after a previous streptococcal infection. In the worst case, infectious endocarditis can spread the bacteria via the blood (sepsis). Despite optimal antibiotic treatment, around 30% of patients with bacterial endocarditis die. The prognosis for rheumatic fever is significantly better than for bacterial endocarditis.

Valvular heart disease

Heart valve defects can affect any valve in the heart. The flaps can either be narrowed or leaky (insufficient). In the first case the blood cannot be expelled properly, in the second case the blood flows back into the corresponding heart cavity. Slight heart valve defects cause few complaints and usually do not require any special therapy. Serious errors are usually handled with an operation.


Disorders of the heart rhythm can occur in healthy people as well as being a sign of heart disease. There are different types of cardiac arrhythmias. Depending on the cause, the disorders are treated differently, either with medication or with electrotherapy.


In some diseases, fluid can build up in the space between the epi- and pericardium. This so-called pericardial effusion disappears spontaneously or through drug treatment, sometimes the doctor has to suck out the fluid. A pericardial effusion can be very dangerous if a lot of fluid accumulates quickly or if the effusion is not recognized in time. Because then the heart can no longer fill properly and as a result can no longer throw out enough blood. The pericardium can become inflamed for various reasons. In technical jargon this is called "pericarditis".

Blood pressure too low (hypotension)

Blood pressure may be lower than usual for no explainable cause, or it may be lowered by heart disease, a nervous system disorder, hormonal disorders, blood loss, medication, and other causes. If the causes can be identified, an attempt will be made to eliminate or treat them.

Functional heart problems

Some people have chest pain or feel heart disease even though their heart is very healthy. Doctors call this "functional heart disease". These people often feel anxious and insecure. Discussions with their doctor or a psychotherapist can help the patient.