doctor explaining signs of hypertension to patient

Hypertension does not always cause symptoms, which is why the condition often goes unnoticed. However, there are some signs and symptoms of hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure) to watch out for.

Often, people do not recognise the signs of high blood pressure until they have a stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure is known to be a silent disease that often does not produce obvious symptoms. It is recommended that you regularly check your blood pressure to make sure you spot a dangerous increase early on.

There are, however, a few symptoms that occur in people with very high blood pressure. These include: chest pain, light-headedness, shortness of breath, tiredness and vision troubles.

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you can discuss the treatments we offer with one of our doctors online. 

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What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure?

Let’s start with a bit of information on blood pressure and hypertension.

When your heart pumps blood through your body, this increases the pressure in your arteries. Normally, they respond by widening. High blood pressure happens when your arteries have hardened (due to aging, diseases or an unhealthy lifestyle). Hardened arteries do not relax sufficiently. As a result, your blood pressure increases.

In other words, your arteries remain relatively narrow even when you have a lot of blood flowing through them. Over the years, the increased pressure on your arteries damages them as well as your heart. Eventually, high blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart attack.

Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension does not commonly cause symptoms. However, in some cases, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Chest pain
  • Vision problems
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pale skin colour

These symptoms can indicate that you are having a stroke, in which case you may also experience:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ear
  • Confusion
  • Severe headache

These signs and symptoms of hypertension usually occur when patients are experiencing a “crisis” or an “emergency” because their high blood pressure has reached dangerously high levels.

These signs are also common in people who suffer from a sudden increase in high blood pressure (accelerated hypertension). If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Hypertension Statistics - UK

Around the world, hypertension leads to more than 8 million premature deaths each year. In the UK, there are about 62,000 people who die prematurely each year from strokes and heart attacks as a result of high blood pressure.

An estimated 7 in 10 people in Britain have increased blood pressure and the condition increasingly affects younger people, too - nearly half of the population under 35.

What these hypertension statistics also show, is that most high blood pressure patients (about a third) are not actually aware that they have the condition. This is primarily due to the fact that most of the time, high blood pressure remains symptomless. Unaware of the condition, patients continue with an unhealthy lifestyle that puts them at risk of stroke, diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.

For this reason, high blood pressure is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer”.

Medical Signs of Hypertension

The easiest way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to take your blood pressure reading.

Measuring your blood pressure is very simple and painless. It is carried out with a device called sphygmomanometer (the inflatable cuff that your doctor puts around your arm). Within seconds, your doctor can measure your blood pressure.

The results work like this:

  • Anything between 120/80 (120 over 80) and 140/90 (140 over 90) is dubbed the pre-hypertension stage – which often leads to hypertension
  • Between 140/90 and 160/100, you are in stage 1 hypertension
  • Between 160/100 and 180/110, you are in stage 2 hypertension
  • Above 180/110, you are in stage 3 hypertension (and you need immediate medical care)

People in stage 3 hypertension tend to suffer from secondary hypertension, which is a form of high blood pressure with known causes such as kidney disease, hormonal disease (e.g. gland tumour, hyperthyroidism), lead poisoning, head injuries and pregnancy.

Other signs of secondary hypertension include:

  • No effect from high blood pressure medication (even if it did work before)
  • Suddenly high blood pressure
  • No history of hypertension in your family

Be it primary hypertension (the most common) or secondary hypertension, it’s very important that you consult a doctor for high blood pressure. This is the only way to understand what type of hypertension you are suffering from and which treatment is best for you.

Early Signs of High Blood Pressure

Patients who experience early signs of hypertension usually complain about dull headaches, short moments of lightheadedness as well as unusually frequent nosebleeds. It is quite rare for blood pressure to cause symptoms in the early stages of the condition.

Signs of Stroke

High blood pressure can lead to dangerous emergencies such as stroke. As soon as you recognise one of these symptoms you must seek medical care immediately. Call 999 (in the UK) if you or any person around you:

  • Has issues speaking clearly and understanding someone else
  • Cannot use his/her arms (e.g. try raising them)
  • Suffers from facial weakness (e.g. drooping eye or mouth, inability to smile)

Medical Diagnosis - Detecting High Blood Pressure

Using the sphygmomanometer (inflatable cuff), your doctor will first look for obvious signs of high blood pressure by checking it at the time of consultation. However, just because you have a high reading of blood pressure at a given time doesn’t mean you have the condition.

It could simply be the case that stress or other factors caused a temporary increase in your blood pressure. From then on, your doctor will have to check your blood pressure regularly at different times to be able to diagnose you with hypertension.

In the meantime, or after that observation period, your GP might also run checks to see if your kidneys, heart or other organs have suffered from your high blood pressure.

This includes ultrasound tests of the heart and kidneys as well as urine sample analysis.

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