High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common type of heart health condition characterized by excessively high blood pressure levels in the arteries. It is the leading cause of heart disease, which is a leading cause of death in the United States. This condition often has no symptoms but can cause serious issues if left untreated including stroke, heart failure, heart attack and coronary artery disease. 

High blood pressure affects the blood flow through the blood vessels, which can lead to damage in the artery walls. A blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher is generally considered high. If left unmanaged, hypertension can significantly increase the risk of heart-related issues and other health problems.

Hypertensive crisis is a severe form of elevated blood pressure where blood pressure levels become dangerously high and require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of heart disease, such as shortness of breath and chest pain, may be experienced during a hypertensive crisis.

Risk Factors

Unhealthy blood pressure levels can be caused by various factors. Certain health conditions can raise blood pressure. General risk factors of high blood pressure include:

  • Age – Blood pressure tends to rise with age.
  • Family history – People with a family history of high blood pressure are at an increased risk.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle – An unhealthy diet, drinking alcohol excessively and being physically inactive can increase the risk for high blood pressure.
  • Race or ethnicity – African Americans adults are at a higher risk than White, Hispanic or Asian adults.
  • Sex – Men under the age of 55 are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women. Women are more likely to develop the condition than men after the age of 55.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

It is crucial to have your blood pressure tested frequently because high blood pressure does not produce symptoms until more serious problems develop.

Some common symptoms of high blood pressure include:

  • Headaches: Persistent or severe headaches, particularly at the back of the head, can be a symptom of high blood pressure. However, headaches are not specific to hypertension and can be caused by various other factors.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: Some individuals with high blood pressure may feel dizzy or lightheaded, especially when standing up quickly. This can be due to the increased pressure in the blood vessels.
  • Blurred vision: High blood pressure can cause changes in blood vessels in the eyes, leading to blurred vision or visual disturbances.
  • Shortness of breath: In severe cases of high blood pressure, fluid buildup in the lungs can occur, learning to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain: Extremely high blood pressure may lead to chest discomfort or tightness.

The majority of people with high blood pressure may not experience any symptoms until it reaches a dangerously high level or causes complications. Uncontrolled hypertension can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney problems or other serious health issues.

Detection and Diagnosis

To diagnose high blood pressure, a blood pressure test is conducted to measure both systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure represents the force of blood pushing against the artery walls when the heart beats, while diastolic pressure is the pressure when the heart rate is at rest between beats.

A combination of analyzing your medical history and consistently high blood pressure readings may lead to a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Additional tests may be administered for your doctor to detect any other medical conditions that may be causing your high blood pressure, or to see if the high blood pressure has affected your kidneys.

High Blood Pressure Treatment

People with high blood pressure should seek medical care from a cardiologist for hypertension, or a hypertension specialist. 

Lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and regular exercise can help lower blood pressure. Medication may also be prescribed to reduce the risk of complications. Because primary hypertension is not caused by any other heart conditions, it can be reversed with these treatment options.

Regular visits to a blood pressure doctor or a cardiologist specializing in high blood pressure are crucial to monitor progress and adjust your treatment plan as needed.