Hypertension: False and True symptoms

High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.

High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.

The truth is that you can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms.

If you ignore your blood pressure because you think symptoms will alert you to the problem, you are taking a dangerous chance with your life. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and it can be detected.

Hypertension is very often asymptomatic (no signs of illness), and that is a fact. Here are several myths about symptoms you are about to experience when your blood pressure numbers are high:

Headaches

Evidence indicates that high blood pressure does not cause headaches except perhaps in the case of hypertensive crisis (systolic/top number higher than 180 OR diastolic/bottom number higher than 110).

Noseblids

Except with hypertensive crisis, nosebleeds are not a reliable indicator for HBP. In one study, 17 percent of people treated for high blood pressure emergencies at the hospital had nosebleeds. However, 83 percent reported no such symptom.

Blood spots in the eyes

Blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage), are more common in people with diabetes or high blood pressure, but neither condition causes the blood spots. Floaters in the eyes are not related to high blood pressure.

Facial flashing

While facial flushing may occur while your blood pressure is higher than usual, HBP is not the cause of facial flushing. Facial flushing occurs when blood vessels in the face dilate as a result of 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.

Dizziness

Dizziness can be a side effect of some high blood pressure medications, but is not caused by hypertension. Nonetheless, dizziness should not be ignored, especially if you notice a sudden onset. Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination and trouble walking are all warning signs of a stroke. HBP is one of the leading risk factors for stroke.

The Symptoms of Hypertensive Crisis

As mentioned above, only when blood pressure readings soar to dangerously high levels (systolic of 180 or higher or diastolic of 110 or higher) may obvious symptoms occur. Blood pressure this high is known as hypertensive crisis, and emergency medical treatment is needed.

In addition to extreme readings, a person in hypertensive crisis may experience:

  • Severe headaches
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

You should not try to evaluate your symptoms in an attempt to self-diagnose high blood pressure. Diagnosis should only be made by a healthcare professional.

Bottom line is that everybody needs to know their blood pressure numbers, and everyone needs to prevent high blood pressure from developing. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.

Sources:

  • What are the symptoms of hugh blood presure?, American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org
  • High blood pressure (hypertension), Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com
  • Rodriguez MA, Kumar SK, De Caro M., Hypertensive crisis, Cardiology in review, 010 Mar-Apr;18(2):102-7.

 

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