THE MEDICAL BLOG
August 15, 2022 – By Dr. Haider Khalid
There are some tell-tale Symptoms of High Blood Pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is among the most common medical complaints globally. According to research conducted in 2018, about 25% of the world’s adult population has high blood pressure. Findings further predicted that by the year 2025, this percentage would increase up to 29% (1).
In most cases, it is pretty tricky to know if you have high blood pressure. Therefore, researchers have repeatedly addressed hypertension as a ‘silent killer’ in the medical literature. The title suits well to the condition, which in 2019 caused around 11 million deaths worldwide, more than any other chronic disease.
What do You need to Know about High Blood Pressure?
Because of their narrow lumen, the arteries resist the blood flow. The resistance helps flow blood to every cell in the body. Without the opposition, the blood would not flow and pool in the vessels. The measurement of this resistance offered by the blood vessel walls gives the blood pressure readings.
In the presence of risk factors, hardening of the arterial walls occurs over several years. Loss of elasticity leads to un-stretchable arteries, which offer a greater range of resistance to blood flow (2). It is a condition known as high blood pressure or hypertension in the medical literature.
What are the Categories of Blood Pressure Readings?
You need to know about two categories of blood pressure readings to tell if you have high blood pressure. These readings include systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
Systolic blood pressure is the resistance in the blood vessels when the heart is actively pumping blood. In comparison, diastolic blood pressure is the resistance in the vessels when the heart is not pumping. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in vessels between two heartbeats.
Here are the four categories of blood pressure readings.
|Category||Systolic (mm of Hg)||Diastolic (mm of Hg)|
|Normal||< 120||< 80|
|Elevated Blood Pressure||120-129||< 80|
|Stage 1 High Blood Pressure||130-139||80-89|
|Stage 2 High Blood Pressure||> 140||> 90|
However, there is a fifth category known as ‘hypertensive crises. It happens when the systolic reading rises above 180 mm of Hg and the diastolic rises above 120 mm of Hg. It is a medical emergency. Suppose you notice any symptoms of chest pain, severe headache, and visual abnormalities. In that case, you should immediately consult your doctor for expert advice.
How does a Person Present With High Blood Pressure?
Unfortunately, there is not a long list of signs and symptoms through which you can tell if you have high blood pressure. In most cases, symptoms usually do not occur until the late stages of the disease. In the late stages, symptoms mostly correspond to the presence of complications or comorbid conditions.
Suppose someone argues that there are definite symptoms of high blood pressure. In that case, he is wrong. Therefore, you should not take chances with your life as there is likely any chance that a particular sign or symptom will alert you to the condition. Conclusively, the best way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to check the blood pressure readings.
However, American Heart Association mentions that symptoms occur in cases of severe hypertension. Therefore, for your better understanding, I will briefly tell you about the five signs of high blood pressure (3).
Facial flushing occurs when the blood vessel carrying blood to your face dilates. As a result, more than normal blood flow to the face is a condition that can be associated with high blood pressure. But, it’s not always the case, as facial flushing can occur in other situations.
Red Spots in the Eye
Red spots or blood spots in the eye are the most common symptoms associated with high blood pressure. These spots indicate hemorrhages that may have occurred due to damaged arteries in the eyeball. Therefore, you should immediately consult your doctor whenever you notice any blood spots in your eye.
Dizziness is mainly related to blood pressure medications rather than blood pressure itself. Whatever the cause of the dizziness, you shouldn’t ignore it. Otherwise, complications can occur.
Headaches and Nosebleeds
According to American Heart Association, headaches and nosebleeds are the two symptoms related to only hypertensive crises. There is likely any chance of these symptoms in a patient with stage 1 or 2 high blood pressure.
You need to check your blood pressure when you notice these symptoms immediately. Call the ambulance if the blood pressure comes out to be more than 180/120.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
The cause of high blood pressure is related to the particular type of hypertension. Therefore, you must first understand the two main types of hypertension (high blood pressure).
Most people have primary or essential hypertension. It is a condition that develops over years or decades due to risk factors. Some of the common risk factors associated with primary hypertension include (4),
- Age: The risk of high blood pressure increases significantly after age 65.
- Genes: There are chances that you may have inherited genes from your parents that can increase your risk of hypertension.
- Dietary Habits: Alcohol consumption and eating foods with high sodium concentration can lead to high blood pressure over the years.
- Lifestyle Habits: People with a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop hypertension.
- Other chronic illnesses: Conditions like diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome are common illnesses that damage blood vessel walls leading to high blood pressure.
Secondary hypertension usually develops due to the underlying diseased process. Therefore, the severity of this type is more than the primary one. Moreover, it also develops rapidly compared to the slower progression of the former type.
Some of the common conditions that can cause secondary hypertension include (5),
- Kidney diseases
- Hormonal imbalances related to the thyroid gland and adrenal gland
- Obstructed sleep apnea
- Congenital heart defects
- Medication-induced high blood pressure
How to Know if You Have High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is a silent disease. Most people with hypertension don’t present with any symptoms until their disease progresses to complicated stages. But you don’t need to lose hope. Because, even though you would not present with any symptoms, diagnosis of high blood pressure is pretty simple.
Suppose your question is how you can tell if you have high blood pressure. The answer lies simply in taking the blood pressure reading. Those concerned about their health should regularly monitor their blood pressure readings yearly.
Most clinics also take your blood pressure reading on a routine visit. You can ask them to do it if they are not doing it. There is one more thing that you must know, if your blood pressure comes out to be higher than average for once, it is not enough to develop the diagnosis of hypertension.
In most cases, your healthcare provider will ask you to visit over a few weeks or days. Suppose your blood pressure is still high after repetitive readings. In that case, your doctor will probably label you a patient with high blood pressure. But apart from taking a ready, there is hardly any way by which you can tell if you have high blood pressure or not.
What Happens After the Confirmation of Diagnosis?
After confirming your diagnosis of high blood pressure, your doctor would begin the quest to look for the cause that is causing the sustained problem. First, he would take your detailed medical history, looking for the triggers in your life causing your blood pressure to deviate from the normal levels.
In primary hypertension, the cause is usually apparent such as obesity or old age. However, in the absence of risk factors of primary disease, your healthcare provider would ask you to have some tests. Some of the essential tests that you need to have to tell what causes your high blood pressure include,
- Blood tests, especially for checking cholesterol levels in your blood
- ECG looks for any abnormality in the pumping of the heart
- Urine analysis to rule out kidney diseases
Conclusively, it would be best if you remain vigilant about your health. Early diagnosis of your disease can help effectively treat and prevent complications.
How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Body?
High blood pressure, if not timely diagnosed, can lead to several complications. Some of these complications are even life-threatening. For this reason, it is known as the silent killer. However, most complications related to high blood pressure are due to damaged arteries.
Hypertension over the years damages the blood vessel walls. As a result, arteries lose their elasticity, and their hardening occurs. Moreover, rigid arteries experience blood pressure damage, increasing the likelihood of clot formation.
Clot formation can lead to one of the two outcomes. They can block the blood flow in the arteries, or arteries may rupture due to blockage. Both are life-threatening conditions. Some of the expected outcomes of these complications include heart failure, arrhythmias, and stroke (6)
What is Pregnancy-induced Hypertension?
Mothers with high blood pressure problems are likely to experience complications during their pregnancy (7). In simple words, uncontrolled high blood pressure can endanger the life of both mother and the child. Therefore, you need to closely monitor your blood pressure if you are a pregnant lady.
There are some cases in which high blood pressure develops during pregnancy. In most cases, the blood pressure readings come to normal after the baby’s delivery. However, the mother’s risk of having a problem with hypertension in later life increases significantly. Thus, if you have had this problem in the past, you must closely monitor your blood pressure readings.
What are the Various Treatment Options?
Healthy lifestyle changes are enough in the early stages to bring the blood pressure readings within a normal range. That’s why it is essential to monitor your blood pressure yearly, even if you don’t have any associated risk factors. Early diagnosis with blood pressure monitoring is the best way to tell if you have high blood pressure.
However, in case of a late diagnosis, you need medications and healthy lifestyle changes to manage your blood pressure. Some effective blood pressure medications include calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and diuretics (8).
The treatment of secondary hypertension is mainly related to the cause. Therefore, your healthcare provider would recommend treatment options for managing the causative factors.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Manage Hypertension
Here are the effective lifestyle changes that can help you manage your blood pressure readings within normal limits.
According to dietary recommendations, you must consume ten servings of fruits and vegetables if you have high blood pressure (9). Daily sodium intake is the second most important nutritional factor in controlling high blood pressure. According to American Heart Association, patients with high blood pressure must consume no more than 2300 mg daily salt (10).
Other dietary modifications include omitting sugary products from your diet. If you avoid high carbohydrate foods, there are chances that you will lose unhealthy fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, weight loss is also an effective way to manage high blood pressure (11).
Exercise is another effective way to lose body weight. Losing weight reduces blood cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of complications in hypertensive patients. Therefore, healthcare providers often recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly.
You can also focus on risk factors to control your blood pressure. For example, avoiding smoking and alcohol are the two main factors that can help you improve your heart and blood vessel health. Furthermore, stress is also a triggering factor for high blood pressure. So avoid stress, and be happy, which will make your heart happy.
For additional information on how to manage your High Blood Pressure:
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1. Shah N, Shah Q, Shah AJ. The burden and high prevalence of hypertension in Pakistani adolescents: a meta-analysis of the published studies. Archives of Public Health. 2018 Apr 2;76(1).
2. Mohammed M, Johnson DN, Wang LA, Harden SW, Sheng W, Spector EA, et al. Targeting angiotensin type-2 receptors located on pressor neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract to relieve hypertension in mice. Cardiovascular Research. 2021 Mar 16;118(3):883–96.
3. American Heart Association. What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure? [Internet]. www.heart.org. 2016 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure
4. Kannel WB. Risk Factors in Hypertension. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. 1989;13:S4–10.
5. Sharana Hegde, Aeddula NR. Secondary Hypertension [Internet]. Nih.gov. StatPearls Publishing; 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544305/
6. Sharana Hegde, Aeddula NR. Secondary Hypertension [Internet]. Nih.gov. StatPearls Publishing; 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544305/
7. Wenger NK, Arnold A, Bairey Merz CN, Cooper-DeHoff RM, Ferdinand KC, Fleg JL, et al. Hypertension Across a Woman’s Life Cycle. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2018 Apr;71(16):1797–813.
8. Wu J, Kraja AT, Oberman A, Lewis CE, Ellison RC, Arnett DK, et al. A summary of the effects of antihypertensive medications on measured blood pressure. American Journal of Hypertension [Internet]. 2005 Jul 1;18(7):935–42. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16053990/
9. Fruits and Vegetables Serving Sizes [Internet]. www.heart.org. 2010 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/add-color/fruits-and-vegetables-serving-sizes
10. Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure [Internet]. www.heart.org. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/shaking-the-salt-habit-to-lower-high-blood-pressure#:~:text=The%20American%20Heart%20Association%20recommends
11. CDC. Losing Weight [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html