How To Know If You Have High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, which is why its referred to as a silent killer. There are many symptoms associated with high blood pressure, including headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, a flush face, and fatigue.
The only way to know for sure that you have high blood pressure is to measure your blood pressure. Doctors typically ask that it be measured twice daily morning and evening. Measuring your blood prssure twice daily will overtime, allow you to get an accurate measure.
People with high blood pressure may experience many of these symptoms, but they just as often occur in those with normal blood pressure. If left for too long, or if the hypertension is severe enough, it can damage the brain and cause symptoms such as headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, restlessness and blurred vision. In rare cases, it can even cause brain swelling which can lead to drowsiness and coma.
How Do I Know If I Have High Blood Pressure
Theres only one way to know if you have high blood pressure: Have a doctor or other health professional measure it. Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless.
Talk with your health care team about regularly measuring your blood pressure at home, also called self-measured blood pressure monitoring.
High blood pressure is called the silent killer because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
Since high blood pressure doesnt cause many symptoms at first, you probably wont feel any different with a high blood pressure diagnosis. But its important to follow your providers instructions to bring your blood pressure down so it doesnt cause serious illnesses later in life.
How long does high blood pressure last?
If you have primary high blood pressure, youll need to control it for the rest of your life.
If you have secondary high blood pressure, your blood pressure will most likely come down after you receive treatment for the medical problem that caused it. If a medication caused your high blood pressure, switching to a different medicine may lower your blood pressure.
What is the outlook for high blood pressure?
You can get seriously ill if you dont treat your high blood pressure. However, if you take the medicines your provider ordered, you can control your blood pressure. Exercising and eating healthy foods also helps lower your blood pressure.
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Primary High Blood Pressure
While the specific cause of primary high blood pressure remains unknown, there is compelling evidence to suggest that a number of risk factors increase your chances of developing the condition.
These risk factors include:
- age – the risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older
- a family history of high blood pressure – the condition seems to run in families
- being of Afro-Caribbean or South Asian origin
- high-fat diet
- high amount of salt in your diet
- lack of exercise
- excessive alcohol consumption
A number of health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, have also been linked to an increase risk of developing primary high blood pressure.
Quitting Smoking And Limiting Alcohol
If youre a smoker and have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely advise you to quit. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the bodys tissues and harden blood vessel walls.
If you regularly consume too much alcohol or have an alcohol dependency, seek help to reduce the amount you drink or stop altogether. Drinking alcohol in excess can raise blood pressure.
If you have risk factors for hypertension, you can take steps now to lower your risk for the condition and its complications.
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Can High Blood Pressure Be Prevented Or Avoided
If your high blood pressure is caused by lifestyle factors, you can take steps to reduce your risk:
- Lose weight.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption.
- Learn relaxation methods.
If your high blood pressure is caused by disease or the medicine you take, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe a different medicine. Additionally, treating any underlying disease can help reduce your high blood pressure.
Hypertension: What You Need To Know As You Age
You cant see high blood pressure, also called hypertension. And most ofthe time, you cant feel it. But if youre among the 78 million Americanswith hypertension or are one of the 70 million with prehypertension, its important to understandits effects on your healthand to take action today to bring your numbersdown to healthier levels.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the inner walls of yourarteries. It has normal fluctuations throughout the dayfalling when yourerelaxed or asleep, rising naturally in the morning, and increasingtemporarily when youre under stress, excited or exercising. But when yourresting blood pressure level rises too high, it can scar, stiffen and/orweaken blood vessels. This effect can double your risk for aheart attack quadruple your odds for astroke raise your risk forheart failure, vision loss, kidney problems,dementiaand circulation problems such asperipheral artery disease weaken your bones and contribute toerectile dysfunctionin men.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Provider
- Are there supplements or non-prescription medicines that I shouldnt take?
- Can I keep taking these medicines if I get pregnant?
- What kinds of exercise should I do?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you dont treat high blood pressure, it can put you at risk for developing serious illnesses later in life such as heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. But if you follow your providers instructions, you can control your blood pressure. Be sure to take any medicines your provider ordered as instructed. Keep taking them even if your blood pressure numbers begin to fall into the normal range. Living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods, watching your weight and getting regular exercise is also a great way to help control your blood pressure.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/21/2021.
Risks Of High Blood Pressure
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening health conditions, such as:
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are of black African or black Caribbean descent
- live in a deprived area
Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.
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How Is Hypertension Diagnosed
Adults 20 years of age and older should have their blood pressure checked during regular doctor visits.
Blood pressure is measured with a pressure cuff placed around the upper arm and manually or electronically inflated.
- When inflated, the cuff compresses the brachial artery, the major blood vessel of the upper arm, briefly stopping blood flow.
- The air in the cuff is then released slowly while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.
Blood pressure is expressed in two numbers:
|Systolic blood pressure||measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats|
|Diastolic blood pressure||measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats|
High, elevated, and normal blood pressure is usually defined in the following ranges in the blood pressure chart below:
|High blood pressure|
Causes And Risk Factors Of High Blood Pressure
The following can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Older AgeRaceGenderFamily HistoryBeing OverweightLack of Physical ActivityTobacco Use
Dietary Choices What you choose to eat can increase your risk of hypertension, per the Mayo Clinic:
- Too much sodium can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
- Since potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells, not getting enough of it can raise blood pressure.
Alcohol ConsumptionStressChronic ConditionsPregnancyBirth Control
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About High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is usually defined as having a sustained blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or above.
The line between normal and raised blood pressure is not fixed and depends on your individual circumstances. However, most doctors agree that the ideal blood pressure for a physically healthy person is around 120/80mmHg.
A normal blood pressure reading is classed as less than 130/80mmHg.
You Can Take Steps To Prevent High Blood Pressure
“The good news is that high blood pressure is avoidable,” says Dr. Patel. “The keys to preventing high blood pressure are to focus on making healthy lifestyle choices and avoiding the habits and behaviors known to be unhealthy.”
High blood pressure prevention tips include:
- Regularly monitoring your blood pressure
- Maintaining a healthy weight and losing weight if you are overweight
- Eating a well-balanced diet that limits highly processed foods
- Limiting your salt intake
- Getting 150 minutes of physical activity per week
- Limiting alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Having regular checkups with your primary-care physician
“If you already have high blood pressure, the steps above become even more immediately important for you since they also help manage your blood pressure,” recommends Dr. Patel. “Getting high blood pressure under control helps prevent it from progressing, and working with a preventive cardiologist can help you achieve the close monitoring needed to reach your blood pressure goals.”
- The Cardiovascular Prevention & Wellness Program at Houston Methodist offers preventive cardiology services, including high blood pressure management. Our team can help you understand which healthy lifestyle practices and personalized medications can help reduce and manage your blood pressure.
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What Are The Different Types Of High Blood Pressure
There are two main types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary high blood pressure.:
- Primary, or essential, high blood pressure is the most common type of high blood pressure. For most people who get this kind of blood pressure, it develops over time as you get older.
- Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines. It usually gets better after you treat that condition or stop taking the medicines that are causing it.
What Can I Do To Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range or keep their numbers in a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care team about
- Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
- Not smoking
- Managing stress
Learn more about ways to manage and prevent high blood pressure.
In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, some people with high blood pressure need to take medicine to manage their blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for high blood pressure.
Talk with your health care team right away if you think you have high blood pressure or if youve been told you have high blood pressure but do not have it under control.
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Monitor Your Blood Pressure Regularly
The best way to prevent complications and avoid problems is to recognize hypertension early.
Keep a log of your blood pressure readings and take it to your regular doctor appointments. This can help your doctor see any possible problems before the condition advances.
People with hypertension can deliver healthy babies despite having the condition. But it can be dangerous to both the birthing parent and baby if its not monitored closely and managed during the pregnancy.
People with high blood pressure who become pregnant are more likely to develop complications . For example, pregnant women with hypertension may experience decreased kidney function. Babies born to birthing parents with hypertension may have a low birth weight or be born prematurely.
Some people may develop hypertension during their pregnancies. Several types of high blood pressure problems can develop. The condition often reverses itself once the baby is born. Developing hypertension during pregnancy may increase your risk for developing hypertension later in life.
When To See Your Doctor
The best way to find out if you have hypertension is by checking your blood pressure. This can be done at the doctors office, at home with a blood pressure monitor, or even by using a public blood pressure monitor, like those found in shopping malls and pharmacies.
You should know your usual blood pressure. Then you can seek further evaluation from your healthcare professional if you see a significant increase in this number the next time your blood pressure is checked.
If you have experienced any possible symptoms mentioned above, its important to tell your doctor right away. Symptoms very rarely occur with high blood pressure and could be a sign your blood pressure has been high for a long time.
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How Common Is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common condition, it is estimated that 18% of adult men and 13% of adult women have high blood pressure but are not getting treatment for it.
In 90-95% of cases, there is no single identifiable reason for a rise in blood pressure. But all available evidence shows that lifestyle plays a significant role in regulating your blood pressure.
Risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- poor diet
- being overweight
- excessive alcohol consumption.
Also, for reasons not fully understood, people of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian origin are more likely to develop high blood pressure than other ethnic groups.
Tests For High Blood Pressure
When you have a doctors appointment, a nurse, medical assistant, or doctor typically checks your blood pressure. They routinely check blood pressure because there arent symptoms of high blood pressure. The only way to catch it is to test it.
A blood pressure machine, officially called a sphygmomanometer, is used to test for high blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff fits around your arm. Doctors or nurses might use a manual blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope to measure your blood pressure. At home, you can use an electronic blood pressure monitor. It only takes a minute or so to do the test.
When measuring blood pressure, youll observe two numbers:
- Systolic: top number indicating pressure inside the artery when the heart is contracting
- Diastolic: bottom number indicating the pressure of blood inside the arteries when the heart is filling
You have high blood pressure if you have a systolic reading of 140 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic reading of 90 mm Hg or higher. In this case, the nurse or doctor might wait a few minutes and check your blood pressure again. If its still high, you might be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home.
High blood pressure can be a sign of another medical condition. Untreated high blood pressure can cause organ damage. To assess your health properly, a doctor might also order a urine test, blood tests, or an electrocardiogram to check your heart health.
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High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
If not treated, high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications for both the mother and the baby. Hypertension can affect a mothers kidneys and lead to preeclampsia, as well as increase her risk of future heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.
Negative Effects Of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one out of every three American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Because high blood pressure is so common, it might be tempting to assume that its no big deal. But the truth is, that when left untreated, high blood pressure can put you at risk for potentially life-threatening complications.
Here are eight ways that uncontrolled high blood pressure can negatively affect your health:
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Other Inconclusively Related Symptoms
A variety of symptoms may be indirectly related to, but are not always caused by, high blood pressure, such as:
- Blood spots in the eyes: Blood spots in the eyes are more common in people with diabetes or high blood pressure, but neither condition causes the blood spots. Floaters in the eyes are also not related to high blood pressure. However, an eye doctor may be able to detect damage to the optic nerve caused by untreated high blood pressure.
- Facial flushing: Facial flushing occurs when blood vessels in the face dilate. It can occur unpredictably or in response to certain triggers such as sun exposure, cold weather, spicy foods, wind, hot drinks and skin-care products. Facial flushing can also occur with emotional stress, exposure to heat or hot water, alcohol consumption and exercise all of which can raise blood pressure temporarily. While facial flushing may occur while your blood pressure is higher than usual, high blood pressure is not the cause of facial flushing.
- Dizziness: While dizziness can be a side effect of some blood pressure medications, it is not caused by high blood pressure. However, dizziness should not be ignored, especially if the onset is sudden. Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination and trouble walking are all warning signs of a stroke. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for stroke.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.