high blood pressure symptoms

Recently you’ve been suffering with more headaches, sweating and nervousness? Could these be high blood pressure symptoms?

What about the facial flushing? Or the blood spots that have suddenly appeared in front of your eyes?

It’s all been starting to get you worried that you’re going to die of a heart attack sometime soon!

It is true that having high blood pressure is a health concern. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can lead to cardiovascular problems – namely heart disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. 

But… before you start worrying too much about all your miscellaneous symptoms. And before you go turning to the Google God for an “unofficial” diagnosis (which will only make you worry worse)… let’s get the myths and facts cleared up

Myths and Truths About High Blood Pressure Symptoms
Myth: Headaches cause high blood pressure

Truth: When evaluating large population studies, researchers have seen an association between high blood pressure and headache, especially high systolic blood pressure (the top number).

However, the American Heart Association very clearly states that, headaches do not cause high blood pressure, which means having a headache is not a symptom of high blood pressure.

The only case where high blood pressure and severe headache may be more closely connected, is during a hypertensive crisis (blood pressure levels above 180 systolic/ 110 diastolic).

Myth: Facial flushing is a symptom of high blood pressure

Truth: Facial flushing is not a symptom of high blood pressure but can be caused by any number of reasons:

  • An acute stress reaction
  • A panic attack
  • Heat exposure
  • Physical exertion
  • Hormones
  • Alcohol intake
  • Emotional upset like anger or stress
  • Skin conditions that produce broken blood vessels such as rosacea

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have facial flushing if you have high blood pressure, but cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings says that most people don’t.

Myth: Blood spots in the eyes are a symptom of high blood pressure

Truth: Because there are delicate blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to keep your eyes healthy, high blood pressure can damage the eyes.

Blood spots are more common in people with high blood pressure, and in people with diabetes. However, they are not a symptom of high blood pressure.

If you notice any blood spots, floaters or vision loss, you should consult an optometrist for an eye check.

Myth: Nosebleeds are a symptom of high blood pressure

Truth: Hypertensive crisis could cause the sudden onset of nosebleeds. However, in general, nosebleeds are not a symptom of high blood pressure.

  • Nosebleeds may also be due to:
  • Nasal irritation or dryness
  • Nasal polyps
  • Acute stress reactions
  • Medication reactions
  • Trauma or injury

If you have frequent nosebleeds, please consult your doctor.

Myth: Anxiety, nervousness and sweating are high blood pressure symptoms

Truth: In a stress or anxious situation, the body reacts in any number of ways:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Increased body heat
  • Sweating
  • Sense of doom
  • Facial flushing

These symptoms may be more obvious during a hypertensive crisis, but in terms of generally high blood pressure levels, these are not symptoms.

Myth: Chest pain is a high blood pressure symptom

Truth: Chest pain could be a symptom of a heart problem, so it certainly is not something you should ignore. And during a hypertensive crisis some chest pain could be present. However, in general, chest pain is not a symptom of high blood pressure.

The True Facts About High Blood Pressure Symptoms

While you may read various things online, according to the American Heart Association, there are often NO high blood pressure symptoms!

That’s why it’s called the silent killer!

In most cases, you will have no symptoms, which means you could be walking around for years with high blood pressure and you won’t even know.

The only true way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure tested. You can visit a physician to have tests done, and for an official diagnosis. But you can also purchase home blood pressure monitors.

Another alternative is to visit the pharmacy, as they often have a monitor for public use. To understand what your blood pressure readings mean, the following chart will help.

high blood pressure symptoms chart

However, a word of caution here.

Blood pressure can sometimes be higher-than-normal (in the prehypertensive range, or low high blood pressure range) due to physical activity, stress, lack of sleep or even illness.

You may even get what’s called ‘white coat syndrome.’ Or in other words, nervousness and anxiety when you visit the doctor and this can raise blood pressure.

That’s doesn’t necessarily mean you have a high blood pressure problem. Because issues like this are transient (temporary) – meaning, your blood pressure will go down again.

If there is a question that high blood pressure could be a problem, it’s recommended to check blood pressure regularly and record your levels at different time intervals and on different days so you can get a clearer picture and determine if you may have pre-hypertension or hypertension.

Of course, if your blood pressure is definitely in the higher ranges (stage 1 or 2), the doctor will diagnose you with high blood pressure right away and provide treatment without delay. They will most often recommend both lifestyle changes and medications that can help lower your blood pressure levels.

How often should you have blood pressure checked?

Cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings recommends all adults are checked at least every two years.

Since high blood pressure has no symptoms, it can be there for years causing stress on the heart and blood vessels and this is what increases your risk of fatty deposits, blockages in the arteries, and risk of heart attack and stroke.

Blood pressure is more likely to slowly increase over years rather than go up suddenly. But a key factor in treating high blood pressure successfully and avoiding damage to the heart and blood vessels is to start treating it early.

Treatment for high blood pressure

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your physician may recommend medication. It is also recommended to implement lifestyle changes as well.

Medications for high blood pressure

Commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Ace inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers

Read more information about medications over here.

And just to clarify a common question: blood pressure medications are not over-the-counter medicines, they are prescription medications ordered by your physician.

Lifestyle strategies for high blood pressure

  • Change your diet
  • Lose some weight
  • Exercise more
  • Balance sodium and potassium
  • Breathe deeper

Find more details on these strategies over here.

Understand your risk factors

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Stress – as it provokes unhealthy behaviors
  • Age – the older you are, the higher the risk
  • Gender (until age 64, men are at higher risk, 65 and up, women are more at risk)
  • Ethnicity – African-Americans tend to be at higher risk
  • Chronic kidney disease

As you can see, many things on the list above are “modifiable” risk factors, which means you can be proactive and reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

Take your blood pressure seriously – it can be a killer, and strike silently!

Ensure you get checked regularly and take action steps to protect your health!

Written by Jedha Dening

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