The Lamen

Signs and symptoms of hypertension (high blood pressure)

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

Symptoms of hypertension almost never appear, and the condition can go undetected for years. The only conclusive manner of determining hypertension is by taking blood pressure readings.

Photo: Unsplash

Published on Sep 28, 2023
Often reported as a “silent killer,” hypertension or high blood pressure puts you at risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and stroke — with almost no warning signs. Hypertension affects nearly half of adults in the U.S. and over 1 billion adults worldwide.

Blood pressure readings are given by 2 numbers: systolic pressure (top) indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps blood. Diastolic pressure (bottom) is the reading for the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.

  • Stage 1 hypertension is defined as your systolic pressure being between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 hypertension is defined as systolic being 140 or above, or diastolic 90 or above.
  • Blood pressure higher than 180/120 mm Hg is considered a hypertensive crisis that requires emergency medical care.

Symptoms of hypertension include:

  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • nosebleeds

However, most people experience no symptoms until the condition gets severe — an estimated 46 percent of adults don’t know they have hypertension. The only conclusive way to diagnose hypertension is by checking your blood pressure.

Signs of hypertension are also often misunderstood. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports the following symptoms as myths or inconclusive:

  • nervousness
  • sweating
  • facial flushing
  • difficulty sleeping
  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • nosebleeds
  • blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage)

What to know: Only 22.5 percent (1 in 4) of adults with hypertension have it under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • High blood pressure accounts for about 12.8 percent of all deaths worldwide, reports the World Health Organization.
  • While being a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension can also damage the brain, eyes, and kidneys.
  • The condition has been correlated with obesity, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and genetic factors.

Hypertension does not have a cure, but the condition can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Certain breathing exercises are also known to be as effective as medication or aerobic exercise in lowering high blood pressure.