Medically referred to as Hypertension, high blood pressure causes no obvious symptoms at all. But, it can have many threatening consequences. It is often labeled as “the silent killer.” People with high blood pressure typically don’t know it until their blood pressure is measured. It is estimated that 1 out of every 5 people with high blood pressure are unaware that they are at a higher risk of having strokes and heart attacks.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as blood moves through them. Blood pressure readings are in two numbers – high and low. It is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg. Hypertension means having a sustained blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or above.
The difference between normal and raised blood pressure is not fixed and depends on individual circumstances. However, most doctors agree that the ideal blood pressure for a physically healthy person is around 120/80mmHg.
How Is Blood Pressure Measured?
As mentioned earlier, blood pressure reading appears in two numbers. The higher number is a systolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The lower number is diastolic pressure, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats. The numbers are usually represented by the systolic pressure first, followed by the diastolic pressure. For example, 120/80mmHg, in which 120 is high blood pressure (systolic) and 80 is low blood pressure (diastolic).
It is normal for blood pressure to vary from individual to individual. But if your blood pressure stays high, you should visit your doctor for treatment immediately. Hypertension is the most common cardiovascular diseases wherein it forces the heart to work far beyond its capacity. It can injure blood vessels, while also damage your brain, eyes, and kidneys.
Understanding The Blood Pressure Numbers
As per the new guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) published in November of 2017, most doctors agree to the following –
- Normal blood pressure numbers are 120/80.
- Blood pressure numbers are between 120/80 and 129/80 are considered as elevated.
- Systolic reading between 130 and 139 or diastolic reading between 80 and 89 are classified as stage 1 High blood pressure or hypertension.
- Reading of 140/90 or more is considered stage 2 hypertension.
- Hypertensive crisis or Malignant hypertension is when the systolic figure is over 180 or a diastolic rate is above 120.
High blood pressure can damage the artery walls. And untreated hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.
Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure often shows no symptoms or signs, even as it causes serious damage to the body. This means people with high blood pressure can have damage occur to their heart, kidneys, eyes, and circulation without feeling bad. Hence, the only way to find out whether you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure checking done regularly. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to serious problems.
High blood pressure and symptoms of the brain
- A severe Headache
- Blurred vision/ Vision problems
- Nausea and vomiting
High blood pressure and heart symptoms
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
Other serious symptoms
- Blood in the urine
- Pounding in the chest, neck, or ears
People often seek medical help only when they have symptoms arising from the organ damage caused by chronic/ long-term) high blood pressure. Long-term high blood pressure can impair the functioning of organs and cause,
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Fluid retention and swelling of the legs causing Kidney failure
- Eye damage causing vision loss
- Peripheral arterial disease causing pain in the legs with walking, cold feet
Almost 1% of people with high blood pressure do not seek medical help until they experience severe high blood pressure, a condition known as malignant hypertension or a hypertensive crisis.
Signs and Symptoms of Elevated Blood Pressure
An elevated blood pressure falls just above the normal levels – systolic pressure is between 120 and 129 or a diastolic pressure is 80 or less. Elevated blood pressures levels are common and about one-fourth of Americans have it. These people are at two times more risk of having heart disease compared to those with lower blood pressures. Lifestyle changes can help many people with Elevated levels lower their blood pressure.
There are usually no symptoms of elevated blood pressure and regular blood pressure check-up is the only way to keep track of your blood pressure. Lifestyle changes such as eating healthy low-salt diet, regular exercise, losing extra pounds, limit alcohol and quit smoking can help prevent blood pressure from rising.
What Is a Malignant Hypertension?
Blood pressure readings more than 180/120 is known as malignant hypertension or hypertension crisis. This is a serious condition and can lead to stroke, kidney damage, heart attacks, or loss of consciousness. If you check your blood pressure and the numbers are these high, then wait for a few minutes and measure again. It requires emergency intervention to lower blood pressure.
Symptoms of Malignant Hypertension
The basic symptoms of malignant hypertension is a blood pressure of 180/120 or higher and signs of organ damage. Other symptoms of malignant hypertension include bleeding and swelling of blood vessels in the retina, anxiety, nosebleeds, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and stroke. It may also cause brain swelling, which is a rare symptom.
Malignant hypertension is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment through an IV to lower blood pressure within few minutes. It can also be a case wherein high blood pressure remains unrecognized for years, causing no symptoms but progressively damaging heart, other organs, and blood vessels.
Who Are More Likely To Have Hypertension?
High blood pressure is more common in older people. It is more likely in people with a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. Men at age 45 and women by age 65 are more prone to it. It’s also more common in African-American people, Heavy alcohol drinkers, and smokers, overweight/obese and inactive people.
Fortunately, high blood pressure detected early, treated and checked regularly, can help avoid adverse consequences. The high blood pressure may return to normal, but you should monitor and treat it for the rest of your life. Lifestyle changes, medicines, and regular checkup are mandated to maintain the normal blood pressure levels and live a healthy life.