high blood pressure symptoms
Can you detect or feel high blood pressure symptoms or signs?

Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure symptoms are almost not presents. For me I was more fortunate. I experienced 4 days of pounding headaches, and in the end chest pain. At this point it was time to check my blood pressure. Earlier in the week our family physician wrote a prescription for a home blood pressure machine. Taking the device to the kitchen table I proceeded to check my blood pressure. The reading was 189/109 and my heart rate was 108. This was a hypertensive crisis. My suggestion is do not wait 4 days.

I am not an alarmist. I tend to take things in stride but not so with my wife. She is a more “take the bull by the horns” type of girl. So she called my sister-in law who is a cardiac registered nurse. Needless to say I ended up at my physicians office and then in the emergency room. It was in the emergency room where the mad dash of people around me began.

The cardiologist on duty showed up and in between the blood tests to see if I was having a heart attack, and the nuclear study to ensure I was not having an aortic aneurysm, there where the pills to swallow. Did I mention I hate taking medication?  The point of all this is to tell you not everyone is so lucky to get a warning. So let’s take a look at some of the relevant high blood pressure symptoms, signs and complications.

Before looking at the signs and symptoms we have to look at the definition. What is the difference between them? A symptom is any subjective evidence of disease, while a sign is any objective evidence of disease. Therefore, a symptom is a phenomenon that is experienced by the individual affected by the disease, while a sign is a phenomenon that can be detected by someone other than the individual affected by the disease. For example, my headaches were a feeling I had (Subjective), while measure of my blood pressure, was a sign (Objective), a big and clear sign.

So, What is more important to watch? High blood pressure symptoms or signs? Well… Both.

High Blood Pressure Symptoms:

In most cases you won’t have any symptoms, but if your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Severe Headaches During a hypertensive crisis, pressure in the cranium builds as a result of your blood pressure suddenly spiking up to critical levels. The resulting headache feels unlike any other kind of migraine or head pain. Traditional headache treatments such as aspirin are ineffective to relieve the pain. In addition to a headache, malignant hypertension usually is also associated with blurred vision, chest pain, and nausea. If you believe you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis do not wait like I did.You need to get to a hospital emergency room right away, or call 911.
  • Chest PainHigh blood pressure causes your heart to pump much harder but less effectively. Imagine tried to force your hand against a brick wall. No matter how much pressure you exert it would be a formidable task. So now imagine your heart trying to force blood through your body against arteries that have hardened. Not only can the pressure cause chest pain, the lack of oxygen rich blood supplied to heart muscle decreases. Some of these conditions are serious and life threatening. Others are not. If you have unexplained chest pain, the only way to confirm its cause is to have a doctor evaluate you.
  • Difficulty BreathingShortness of breath is a scary event for most people. Although a hypertensive crisis may not cause SOB (shortness of breath) one condition can. Pulmonary hypertension is a life-threatening condition that gets worse over time, but treatments can help your symptoms so you can live better with the disease. It may take some planning, but plenty of people who have it find ways to do all the things they love, just as they did before they were diagnosed. Pulmonary hypertension means you have high blood pressure in the arteries that go from your heart, to your lungs.
  • Abnormal Heart RhythmA hypertensive crisis can also trigger cardiac arrhythmia’s. I was not aware of this but did experience and still do. My hypertensive crisis triggered atrial fibrillation. I find these arrhythmia’s disconcerting. Often they cause me to have to rest most of the day. Causing fatigue, increased urination, and dizziness, I often have to just sit and ride it out.

High Blood Pressure Symptoms: If you want a full list of symptoms for high blood pressure there really is none. This is why hypertension is called the silent killer. Their is a myth that states people with high blood pressure usually sweat more, have facial flushing, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping. The truth is the only way to know that you have high blood pressure is by having regular checkups. In doing so, your physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner will be able to monitor and diagnose if need be.

The Complications of High Blood Pressure- Unfortunately uncontrolled hypertension does have consequences and complications. These complications can be life shortening and life threatening. This is why it is so important to get regular checkups. blood pressure measurements are the best sign you may get. Having high blood pressure does not have to be life threatening. So let’s take a look at some of the complications.

  • Heart Attack or Stroke- High blood pressure overtime can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries. Imagine trying to force water at a constant pressure inside a hose that is constricted. This pressure causing undo force on the blood vessels and arteries, which may cause them to hemorrhage. Failing to supply oxygen rich blood to the heart can trigger a heart attack. A stroke can ensue with increased intracranial pressure as well.
  • Aneurysm– This increased intracranial pressure can weaken blood vessels in the brain. If the blood vessels weaken they can start to bulge. This bulge can rupture inside the head and cause severe damage.  The brain starved of oxygen may experience irreversible damage.
  • Heart Failure- The heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood each day. That is 730,000 gallons each year. The heart is an amazing pump, but it can wear out. Pump blood under normal conditions is hard work. Pumping blood against a resistant force can cause premature failure of that pump. High blood pressure also increases the thickness of heart tissue. This thickening of heart tissue leads to inefficient pumping of the heart. If this continues unchecked at some point the heart fails to pump enough blood to the bodies organs.
  • Kidney Failure- The best way to prevent kidney failure is to control high blood pressure. Controlling high blood pressure with lifestyle changes and medication increases the life expectancy of your kidneys. While I worked in the hospital I saw the results of kidney failure. We take these 2 tiny organs for granted. The kidneys are the filtration organs of the system. Eliminating waste productions from the blood stream, the kidneys keep toxins from building up the the body. With high blood pressure exerted against the kidneys, the nephrons in the filtration system can be torn and damaged. This damage can cause toxins to build up within the system, and cause the kidneys to decrease urine output. Should this occur the final result is kidney dialysis or transplant.

High blood pressure is not something that should be taken lightly. High blood pressure should be seen as a serious health condition that must be treated. With lifestyle changes and medication if taken only temporarily we can make a difference in the outcomes.

Remember to get a checkup at regular intervals. Only your physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner can make a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Pay attention to any high blood pressure symptoms or signs. If you are on medication and are experiencing side effects call your physician immediately and discuss the situation with them. Do not abruptly stop your medication unless advised by your healthcare provider. If you have any suggestions for future articles you would like to see pertaining to high blood pressure, email me at [email protected]


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