High blood pressure or hypertension has been recognized as the principal and most common risk factor responsible for death and disability of non-communicable diseases worldwide.
Around 75 million people in the United States or roughly 29% of the population, have high blood pressure. This data is according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that the heart uses to pump blood around the body. When the heart beats, blood is pumped around the body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs to function. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. Blood pressure is the strength of this pushing.
It is divided into systolic and diastolic. Readings are written in two numbers separated by a line. It is read as 120/80 mm Hg.
The top number refers to the amount of pressure in the arteries during the heart muscle’s contractions. This is the systolic pressure.
The bottom number refers to the blood pressure when the heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure.
Both numbers play important roles in determining the state of the heart’s health. Numbers that are over the ideal range may indicate that the heart is exerting too much effort to pump blood to the entire body.
If the blood pressure is too high, it puts a lot of stress on the arteries and the heart. This may lead to very serious health conditions like strokes and heart attacks.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
High blood pressure or hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer. This condition doesn’t show any apparent symptoms and yet it has a harmful effect on a person’s health. It is dangerous, partly because there are no symptoms, so organ damage can occur slowly without being recognized.
In addition, hypertension typically develops over the course of several years.
A person is considered to have high blood pressure when the blood pressure is 140/90mmHg or above.
Hypertension narrows the arteries and this results in increased resistance. The narrower your arteries are, the higher the blood pressure will be. Over the long term, the increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.
Having this condition increases a person’s risk of heart disease, heart attack, strokes, and many more life-threatening illnesses.
Who are at risk?
- Old age (over the age of 65)
- African or Caribbean descent
- Family history with high blood pressure
- Poor diet
- Not enough exercise
- Drinks too much alcohol or coffee
- Not enough sleep or have disturbed sleep
What are the signs and symptoms?
There are a few symptoms of high blood pressure. This condition does not always exhibit obvious symptoms which is why it always goes unnoticed. Ignoring observed symptoms may put a person’s life at risk.
High blood pressure (hypertension) can quietly damage the body for years before actual symptoms develop. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to disability, poor quality of life, or even a fatal heart attack or stroke which may lead to death.
However, there is no direct link between a body symptom and high blood pressure. So, the only way to know for sure is to have a doctor check for blood pressure.
Hypertension is often picked up during routine checkups. On that note, it is very important to regularly check blood pressures to be able to spot a dangerous spike early on.
The term fatigue is often explained as a feeling of extreme tiredness or exhaustion. It is sometimes interchanged with drowsiness which is the need to sleep. Fatigue is not like that, though, because no amount of rest or sleep can ease the fatigue.
High blood pressure has a role to play in why some people experience fatigue.
Fatigue caused by high blood pressure happens due to many different factors. The condition itself, medications and lifestyle choices all contribute to fatigue.
Tiredness becomes a result of hypertension due to the elevated pressure on vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidneys. The body has to work much harder to function than it would if the blood pressure was lower.
Medication plays a bigger role in contributing to fatigue than the actual condition. Fatigue is a common side effect of many prescription medications used to lower high blood pressure.
These medications slow down the heart’s pumping action as well as depress the entire central nervous system or deplete essential electrolytes that the body needs. The body then reacts to this by producing less energy which results in fatigue.
In addition, lack of physical activities or exercise and other poor lifestyle choices may also result in increased tiredness. Foods that are fatty and high in salt can exacerbate this symptom.
Unexplained fatigue that doesn’t appear to have a cause can be linked to high blood pressure.
2. Chest pain
High blood pressure is a condition that rarely has any noticeable symptoms.
However, in some cases, people with this condition can experience chest pains.
Hypertension puts a lot of strain on the heart. The heart is placed under stress to pump blood against the high pressure and requires more blood flow and oxygen.
In addition, hypertension can also cause narrowing and damage to the coronary arteries, leading to blockages and abnormal blood flow to the heart. It puts stress on the heart wall. When blood can’t flow freely to your heart, angina or chest pain ensues due to inadequate blood flow to the heart.
3. Difficulty in breathing
Hypertension can cause shortness of breath as a result of the effect on the heart and lung function. Shortness of breath is more noticeable with physical exertion or exercise.
It affects blood vessels throughout the body. An uncommon type of hypertension affects the arteries that carry blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs.
This is known as pulmonary hypertension. It causes shortness of breath because the blood vessels become stiff and thick and may develop blood clots.
As the arteries in the lungs become blocked or narrowed, the heart-to-lung system designed to carry fresh, oxygenated blood to the left side of the heart and the rest of the body become affected.
The right side of the heart works harder to pump blood to the lungs. At the same time, less oxygen also reaches the blood because of the damage to the small blood vessels within the lungs. In time, the right ventricle of the heart changes shape and becomes unable to function properly.
4. Irregular heartbeat
The heart us about the size of a clenched fist and can beat 100,000 times a day in a synchronized rhythm. These beats usually go unnoticed until a sudden change causes concern.
An irregular heartbeat is called an arrhythmia and it is one of the symptoms of hypertension.
Hypertension increases a person’s risk of arrhythmia. The heart is weakened due to too much pressure caused by hypertension. As it weakens, irregular heartbeats develop.
Arrhythmia can be described as feeling as if the heart is pounding, racing, or skipping. The normal heart rate lies between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Often, irregular heartbeats are harmless; however, if there is a persistent irregular heartbeat, see a doctor.
5. Blood in urine
Healthy kidneys filter about a cup of blood every minute to remove wastes and water to make urine. This then gets expelled through the urinary tract system.
High blood pressure constricts and narrows the blood vessels. This eventually damages and weakens the blood vessels throughout the body, including the kidneys. The narrowing decreases the blood flow.
When the kidney’s blood vessels become damaged, they can no longer work efficiently. If this happens, the kidneys will be unable to remove all wastes and extra fluid from the body. This in turn causes a buildup of extra fluid in the blood vessels that can raise blood pressure even more. This is a dangerous cycle and may cause more damage to the body, including kidney failure.
Discovering blood in the urine may indicate that the blood pressure is out of the normal range. High blood pressure is also a risk factor for kidney disease.
The only way to be certain that hypertension is the cause for the blood in urine is to go and have a doctor check for the blood pressure.
In general, nosebleeds are not a classic sign and symptom of high blood pressure. Although rare, it is still possible that this may occur.
The clinical term for nosebleed is epistaxis.
The inside of the nose is covered with tissue that is abundant with blood vessels near the surface. When the tissue gets damaged or injured, the blood vessels tend to bleed. Some nose bleeds originate from large blood vessels in the back of the nose. These can be dangerous. This type of nosebleed is common in the elderly as a result of high blood pressure.
Nosebleeds may appear in a severe type of high blood pressure, called a hypertensive crisis. This occurs when blood pressure is higher than 180 systolic or 110 diastolic. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms related to hypertension. This indicates a severe, medical emergency.
7. Nausea and vomiting
Vomiting and Nausea are two symptoms that can be connected to many diseases. It is not a common symptom of hypertension. However, it may become apparent if the condition is in the severe stage.
Nausea is the unpleasant feeling in the throat or stomach that makes a person feel like vomiting.
Vomiting, on the other hand, is the forceful expulsion of the stomach’s content through the mouth.
Nausea associated with severe hypertension can develop suddenly and may be associated with dizziness. When blood pressure is very high, it can put excess pressure on the brain. This then can cause blood to leak from the blood vessels found in the brain.
Edema, or swelling, often results from this and may become a source of other serious problems.
8. Severe headache
Headaches are not a typical symptom of high blood pressure.
In fact, The American Heart Association (AHA) backs research that says headaches are not a symptom of hypertension. The organization even suggests that people with high blood pressure are less likely to have repeated bouts of headaches.
However, very high blood pressure can trigger an event called malignant hypertension.
Malignant hypertension is also called a hypertensive crisis. This occurs when blood pressure has a reading of 180/120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher.
In a hypertensive crisis, the pressure inside the cranium builds up as a result of the blood pressure suddenly spiking up to dangerous levels. This results in headaches that are unlike any other kind of migraine or head pain.
Common headache remedies and medications like aspirin become ineffective in relieving the pain.
This is considered a medical crisis, and if it occurs, call 911 and get emergency help.
9. Vision problems
High blood pressure not only causes problems to the heart and kidneys but to the eyes as well. It can affect eyesight and cause other eye diseases.
The eyes contain many tiny blood vessels. Hypertension can damage the blood vessels found
In the retina which is the area at the back of the eye responsible for image focusing.
The blood vessels can become stiff and hardened. They will push at each other and cross in the confined space.
Problems with vision may not show itself quickly. It can take years before they start to become noticeable. Eventually, high blood pressure can result in hypertensive retinopathy, blood vessel damage that can result in blurred vision or loss of sight.
In addition, it can also cause choroidopathy which is a buildup of fluid under the retina that can impair or distort vision.
Optic neuropathy is another possible result of high blood pressure affecting the eyes. This is a blockage in the blood flow that can kill nerve cells which can lead to vision loss.