Symptoms of high blood pressure silently killing you

In Australia, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a significant health issue, affecting about 34% of adults. This includes 23% with uncontrolled hypertension and 11% managing their condition with medication (1). As a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, hypertension can be a silent killer as the symptoms can go undetected. Here we will share the silent symptoms of high blood pressure, and highlight the importance of early detection and management.

What Is Normal Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure readings, expressed in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), consist of two numbers: the systolic pressure (the higher number) indicates the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries with each beat, while the diastolic pressure (the lower number) represents the pressure when your heart is at rest between beats.

  • Normal range: 90/60mmHg to 120/80mmHg.
  • High blood pressure: 140/90mmHg or higher.
  • Ideal blood pressure should ideally be below 120/80mmHg.

Understanding these numbers is crucial for evaluating heart health and identifying hypertension at an early stage (2).

The Silent Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure has earned the title “silent killer” due to its lack of obvious symptoms. Many individuals with hypertension may not experience any signs until the condition has advanced and caused significant damage. In fact, roughly 46% of individuals with high blood pressure are not aware of their condition (3). When symptoms do occur, they are often nonspecific and can include:

  • Headaches, especially in the morning.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Flushing of the face.
  • Dizziness or a feeling of spinning (vertigo)

These symptoms can easily be mistaken for less serious health issues, which is why high blood pressure can go unnoticed for years. However, there are many other subtle signs that may indicate that blood pressure is dangerously high. These include:

  • Persistent headaches that are more severe and frequent than usual, particularly upon waking.
  • Episodes of dizziness or lightheadedness, which may indicate fluctuations in blood pressure.
  • Blurred vision or visual disturbances, a result of increased pressure on the delicate blood vessels in the eyes.
  • Unexplained fatigue or confusion, which can be a sign of the body’s struggle to cope with elevated blood pressure.
  • Chest pain or discomfort, particularly during physical activity, could indicate the heart is under strain.
  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, often a sign of the heart working harder to pump blood.
  • An irregular heartbeat or palpitations, which can be a response to increased blood pressure.
  • Blood in the urine or other kidney-related symptoms, as high blood pressure can affect renal function.
  • Pounding or buzzing sensations in the chest, neck or ears

It’s vital to seek medical attention if you notice these symptoms, as they may indicate a medical emergency requiring immediate care (3).

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

The development of high blood pressure is often caused by a combination of lifestyle, genetic and dietary factors, such as:

  • Smoking.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Too much salt in the diet.
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Stress.
  • Older age.
  • Genetics.
  • Family history of high blood pressure

Additionally, certain chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease and thyroid disorders can increase the risk of developing hypertension. Understanding these factors is essential for effective prevention and management (4).

Complications of High Blood Pressure

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to severe health complications. These include an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, aneurysms, kidney disease, and vascular dementia. Over time, hypertension can cause blood vessels to weaken and narrow, significantly impacting various organ systems. This underlines the importance of managing blood pressure to prevent such severe outcomes (5).

How To Control High Blood Pressure?

Effectively managing high blood pressure is crucial in reducing the risk of serious health complications. Lifestyle modifications play a pivotal role and include:

  • Adopting a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, while reducing salt and saturated fat intake.

  • Regular physical activity, such as 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, as weight loss can have a significant impact on lowering blood pressure.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco use.
  • Practicing stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Regular blood pressure monitoring to track progress and adjust lifestyle or medication regimens as necessary.

In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to help manage high blood pressure. It’s important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals regarding medication and lifestyle changes (6).

Conclusion

High blood pressure is a significant health issue that can lead to severe health complications if left unmanaged. By understanding the silent symptoms of high blood pressure, causes, and the importance of early detection, you can take proactive steps to maintain your health and prevent long-term complications. Regular medical check-ups and a healthy lifestyle are key components in the effective management of high blood pressure.

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