High blood pressure is one of the most common conditions currently affecting American adults. The American Heart Association (AHA) released statistics in 2018 estimating that 103 million Americans have hypertension, which is approximately half the adult population. Additionally, high blood pressure (hypertension) was, directly and indirectly, responsible for the death of close to half a million Americans in 2018.
Knowing the signs or symptoms of high blood pressure is critical to your ongoing health. The only problem is that most of the time, there are no specific signs of hypertension. When there are signs, they typically occur when your high blood pressure is causing severe issues such as hypertensive crisis. Symptoms, commonly but not exclusively found in patients experiencing a hypertensive crisis, include severe headaches, chest pains, fatigue, and nosebleeds.
The AHA classifies hypertension as any series of blood pressure readings where your systolic blood pressure is above 130 mm Hg OR your diastolic blood pressure is over 80 mm Hg. Most people will only discover they have blood pressure issues when they go for a routine medical exam. This has led to hypertension being called the “silent killer.”
Factors That Contribute to High Blood Pressure
Despite hypertension not having any apparent symptoms, it is possible to identify risk factors that may cause a person to develop high blood pressure:
- Age: As a person gets older, they tend to see a rise in blood pressure levels. This is typically caused by blood vessels and artery walls thickening and stiffening over time. With the same amount of blood flow passing through ever-narrower channels, your blood pressure naturally increases. Around 90% of Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetime. Blood pressure checks should become a more regular part of a person’s health and wellbeing regimen as they get older.
- Family History: Another reason to regularly check your blood pressure is if you have a family history of hypertension. High blood pressure tends to run in families. If this is the case, your doctor will usually monitor your blood pressure levels for any signs of elevation.
- Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits: If you overeat food that is high in sodium or salt, you may be putting yourself at a higher risk of hypertension. Likewise, if you drink too many alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, the risk of developing high blood pressure also increases. Many people who lead a sedentary lifestyle or do not keep physically active should also make sure that they regularly check their blood pressure.
- Race: African Americans are more likely than Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian Americans to develop high blood pressure. If you are a member of this community, you should know and check your blood pressure at regular intervals.
Conditions That Are Associated with High Blood Pressure
Another way of knowing whether to be on the lookout for high blood pressure is to look at conditions where hypertension is a common symptom. Patients who have diabetes, high blood cholesterol, kidney disease, or sleep apnea also have an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Chronic stress may also be a factor. When a person is stressed, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. These hormones cause a temporary spike in blood pressure, which in turn causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. If you are in a chronic state of stress, it may keep your blood pressure elevated for more extended periods.
Pregnancy can also be associated with hypertension. Between 6-8% of pregnant women between the ages of 20-44 experience high blood pressure during pregnancy. This is often referred to as preeclampsia.
Trying to identify signs of high blood pressure is a difficult task. Any sign that can be attributed to hypertension is typically also a symptom of a different condition. The only way to know if you have hypertension is to measure your blood pressure. Therefore, it is more important to know and monitor your blood pressure level than to look for hypertension signs or symptoms. By taking regular blood pressure measurements as part of a diagnostic plan with your doctor or healthcare provider, you can catch and manage your blood pressure before it reaches a hypertensive level.
- More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, AHA says
- Facts About Hypertension
- High Blood Pressure
- Understanding Blood Pressure Readings
- Residual Lifetime Risk for Developing Hypertension in Middle-aged Women and Men
- High Blood Pressure & Kidney Disease
- Hypertension in Women of Reproductive Age in the United States: NHANES 1999-2008
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
- High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes