High Blood Pressure Symptoms: How to Know If You Have Hypertension
by Allen B. Ury
Many people don’t even consider the possibility they may have a disease or other medical condition until they start showing symptoms. For example, you may know that severe chest pain, sweating, difficulty breathing and numbness in the left arm are signs of a heart attack. You may also know the symptoms that signal diabetes: excessive thirst and appetite, frequent urination, and unusual weight gain or loss. And, of course, severe pain in the lower right abdomen is often a tell-tale sign of appendicitis.
But what about the symptoms of high blood pressure? Do you know the warning signs of hypertension? Many people believe signs of high blood pressure include:
- Frequent headaches
- Blood spots in the eye
- Facial flushing
In fact, all of these symptoms can be a sign of one or more underlying conditions. But none of them indicate high blood pressure. This is because high blood pressure has no symptoms. If left undiagnosed, the first overt sign of a hypertension can be a heart attack or stroke. It may also be the last.
The lack of symptoms is why many doctors call hypertension “the silent killer.” It’s also why it’s important that people get their blood pressure checked regularly.
The Meaning of High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force with which blood is pumped through your veins and arteries. Most members of the medical community consider a “normal” blood pressure reading to be below 120/80 mmHg, although some believe that a 110/70 reading is preferred. High blood pressure is any consistent reading of 140/90 or higher.
The two numbers refer to the state of the heart as it beats. The upper number, known as systolic pressure, refers to pressure taken when the heart is contracted. The lower number, known as diastolic pressure, refers to pressure taken when the heart is relaxed. When either number crosses the 140/90 threshold, Stage 1 hypertension is said to exist.
Why Hypertension Is Dangerous
Consistent high blood pressure is a condition that wears the body down over time. It damages blood vessels, the heart, the brain, eyes and kidneys. Over time, this damage can destroy the affected organ(s).
There are many causes for high blood pressure. Typical causes include:
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Genetic factors
Fortunately, there are many ways to control and even reverse high blood pressure. Patients can often lower it naturally through diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and lowering their intake of salt and alcohol.
When these measures fail, there are a number of proven prescription medications that can attack the problem from various angles.
Medical Assistants and Blood Pressure Testing
Blood pressure is one of the vital signs medical assistants take prior to most medical examinations, routine or otherwise. They do this by placing a pressure cuff on the patient’s left upper arm just below the elbow and then listing to the so-called “Korotkoff sounds” in the brachial artery using a stethoscope as pressure in the cuff is slowly released. This is a painless, non-invasive procedure that can be performed in about a minute. But it takes some training to perform correctly and understand the meaning of the sounds.
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