Hypertension (high blood pressure) is often called the "silent killer" because many people do not exhibit symptoms until the condition becomes severe or causes complications, including heart disease, stroke, and irreversible kidney damage.
Our team at Premier Cardiology Consultants is committed to providing information that helps our fellow New Yorkers make wise decisions about their health. Read the basics about hypertension and the early signs of a problem.
Understanding the dangers of hypertension
Blood pressure measures the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of the body's arteries. It’s usually described by two numbers: systolic pressure over diastolic pressure (i.e., 120/80).
Systolic pressure is the upper number and measures the force your heart exerts when it beats to pump blood into the arteries. The diastolic number measures the force in the arteries when your heart rests between beats.
Consistently high blood pressure (hypertension) can damage blood vessels and organs throughout the body. Health complications of untreated or poorly managed hypertension include:
Catching elevated blood pressure before it’s damaged arteries or organs is crucial to successful treatment outcomes. Fortunately, once diagnosed, treatment may be as simple as taking daily medication, improved nutrition, and increased physical activity.
Three subtle signs of hypertension
Many people don’t have symptoms of elevated blood pressure until the damage reaches a critical level.
However, if you know what to look for, some signs may indicate the presence of hypertension, including:
1. Frequent headaches
While occasional headaches can be caused by various factors such as stress, dehydration, or lack of sleep, persistent and unexplained headaches may be a sign of high blood pressure.
Hypertension can cause the blood vessels in the brain to dilate, leading to headaches. This type of headache is usually mild but consistent. If you find yourself experiencing headaches more frequently without any discernible cause, it might be time for a blood pressure check.
2. Visual disturbances
High blood pressure can affect the small blood vessels in your eyes. Over time, this may lead to retinal damage, which can cause visual disturbances.
Some people with hypertension have reported experiencing blurred vision or an increase in floaters (small, shadowy dots that drift around in your field of vision). These symptoms are often subtle and easy to brush off as tiredness or eye strain, but they can indicate a more severe underlying issue.
3. Episodic dizziness
Occasional dizziness is common and may be triggered by various factors, including dehydration, inner ear problems, or a medication side effect.
However, if you frequently feel lightheaded or dizzy without an apparent reason, it could be related to high blood pressure. While hypertension itself might not always cause dizziness directly, fluctuations in blood pressure or related complications can lead to these feelings.
Additionally, because dizziness can also result from medications used to treat hypertension, it’s essential to discuss dizziness with your cardiologist.
What if I’m not experiencing any symptoms of hypertension?
Even without symptoms, elevated blood pressure is easily recognized when routine blood pressure checks read consistently high (above 120/80).
Thus, our specialists at Premier Cardiology Consultants recommend you monitor your blood pressure readings rather than your symptoms when considering care for hypertension.
Your primary health care provider likely checks your blood pressure during routine office visits. However, if you don’t visit the doctor regularly, easy-to-use home blood pressure cuffs offer an affordable alternative. Many pharmacies also provide free blood pressure checks to the public.
Schedule a visit at Premier Cardiology Consultants today for outstanding cardiovascular care, including blood pressure management.