7 warning signs of high blood pressure

Emeh Joy

High blood pressure is a silent killer. Many people have high blood pressure but are unaware of their health condition. It will help to know some of the warning signs of high blood pressure so that you can get early treatment before any harm is done. 

A doctor taking a patient's blood pressure

High blood pressure is also called hypertension. Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on a blood vessel as it flows through it. High blood pressure describes the condition in which the force of blood flowing through the blood vessels is always high. 

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can affect the heart as it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to all parts of the body. It can also cause the hardening of arteries and can lead to stroke.

High blood pressure causes more than 7 million premature deaths every year. It is also responsible for about 4.5% of the global disease burden.2

High blood pressure can be genetically inherited. Age and race can also play a role in its development. According to a study, older people are disproportionately affected by hypertension, and the majority of them die from non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart diseases.4

The fact that hypertension cannot be seen nor felt most times makes it more dangerous. Your blood pressure could be high, and you won’t know. In fact, according to the CDC, about one in five adults with hypertension are unaware of their condition. 3

This article discusses what high blood pressure means, the blood pressure range chart, warning signs of high blood pressure and how to lower high blood pressure naturally.

Blood pressure range chart

Your blood pressure is considered normal if you have a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 (120/80 mm Hg).

According to the American Heart Association, there are five blood pressure ranges:

  1. Normal blood pressure
  2. Elevated blood pressure
  3. Hypertension stage 1
  4. Hypertension stage 2
  5. Hypertensive crisis

Below is a blood pressure range chart. Learn what is considered normal, elevated or high blood pressure using the blood pressure range chart. 

BLOOD PRESSURE RANGE CHART

BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY

SYSTOLIC mm Hg (upper number)

and/or

DIASTOLIC mm Hg (lower number)

Normal

Less than 120

and

Less than 80

Elevated

120-129

and

Less than 80

High blood pressure stage 1

130-139

or

80-89

High blood pressure stage 2

140 or higher

or

90 or higher

Hypertensive crisis (needs urgent medical attention)

Higher than 180

and/or

Higher than 120

Blood pressure range chart source: American Heart Association

Warning signs of high blood pressure

While hypertension is prevalent among adults, younger people can develop the condition too. This is why it is vital that you constantly check your blood pressure level. Constant monitoring of your blood pressure will help prevent medical emergencies and make you live a more healthy life. 

Below are some common warning signs of blood pressure to always watch out for. 

1. Dizziness

One of the common warning signs of prolonged high blood pressure is sudden dizziness and loss of coordination or balance. 

Dizziness is usually a sign of stroke in people with hypertension. A stroke occurs due to a loss of blood supply to the brain. Sometimes, hypertension medications also cause dizziness

2. Shortness of breath

People with pulmonary hypertension may feel out of breath and may experience difficulties carrying out their daily activities. Pulmonary hypertension is a type of hypertension that affects the arteries in the lungs and the heart.

Prolonged high blood pressure can cause shortness of blood and fatigue. However, sudden shortness of breath can also be a sign of other severe health complications like heart attack and stroke. 

3. Facial flushing

Facial flushing happens when blood vessels on the face dilate. Causes of facial flushing include cold weather, sun exposure, taking hot drinks and spicy foods and some skin-care products. 

Also, things that affect blood pressure such as alcohol consumption, emotional stress and exercise (which can raise blood pressure temporarily) can cause facial flushing. Note that facial flushing may occur with hypertension, but hypertension is not the cause of facial flushing.

5. Blood spots in the eyes

Image by Alexandre Debieve on Unsplash

This is another warning sign of high blood pressure that must not be ignored. Blood spots occur as red spots in the eye. Such red spots are also called subconjunctival haemorrhages. A subconjunctival haemorrhage occurs when tiny blood vessels under the conjunctiva break, causing blood to be trapped.

In the case of hypertension, subconjunctival haemorrhage occurs when too much pressure on the tiny arterial walls stretches the arteries' tissues, causing them to damage and break. The arteries and optical nerves of the eyes might get damaged if left untreated. 

4. Vomiting

High blood pressure can cause you to throw up. Vomiting is more common with hypertensive crises. A hypertensive crisis is an extremely high blood pressure that requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms of a hypertensive crisis include bleeding from the nose, confusion and blurred vision.

6. Anxiety

One of the subtle warning signs of high blood pressure is anxiety. Anxiety is not normal. It is a disorder just like depression. Unfortunately, high blood pressure can also cause feelings of anxiety.

Severe anxiety causes symptoms of sweating, breathlessness, heavy breathing and trembling. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it will help to see a physician for a proper diagnosis. Anxiety itself can cause a spike in blood pressure levels; therefore, it needs to be treated. 

7. Nosebleed

Nosebleed is one of the warning signs of extremely high blood pressure. Nosebleeding does not occur in elevated or stage one hypertension. However, it can happen in the case of hypertensive crisis.1

Other warning signs of high blood pressure to look out for include fatigue, confusion, blood in urine and trouble sleeping. 

How to lower high blood pressure naturally

Taking antihypertensive medication is one way to lower your blood pressure, but not everybody likes taking drugs all the time. There are ways to control or reduce blood pressure without taking medication, such as:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Manage or reduce stress
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Reduce sodium intake (don’t eat too much salt)
  • Lose some weight
  • Cut out added sugar and refined foods
  • Quit smoking
  • Practise deep breathing and yoga
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat calcium-rich foods
  • Eat natural supplements like garlic extract and whey protein
  • Take zobo drinks to lower blood pressure

Note that these natural ways of reducing blood pressure don’t have to replace medications. They are only health management techniques.

If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, talk with your doctor first and know if it is okay to stay off medication. Whether you will take antihypertensive medicines will depend on your blood pressure range. 

References

  1. American Heart Association. (2016, October 31). What are the symptoms of high blood pressure)? https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure  
  2. Buford, Thomas W. “Hypertension and aging.” Ageing research reviews vol. 26 (2016): 96-111. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2016.01.007
  3. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021 September 27). Facts about hypertension. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm 
  4. Shukuri, Arif et al. “Prevalence of old age hypertension and associated factors among older adults in rural Ethiopia.” Integrated blood pressure control vol. 12 23-31. 10 Sep. 2019, doi:10.2147/IBPC.S212821

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