Could I Have High Blood Pressure and Not Know It?

Could I Have High Blood Pressure and Not Know It?

When searching online, you may find articles touting the signs of high blood pressure (hypertension). But don’t let that fool you into thinking you will have symptoms alerting you to this dangerous disease, because you won’t.

In honor of May being High Blood Pressure Education Month, we want to be sure that everyone has the right information about high blood pressure.

As a fellowship-trained cardiologist specializing in hypertension, Dr. Laura Fernandes at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute can assure you that high blood pressure is dubbed the “silent killer” for a good reason: Most people don’t have symptoms until they suddenly have a heart attack.

Let’s explore high blood pressure, the serious health problems it causes, and what’s up with online lists of symptoms.

Could you have high blood pressure and not know it?

We’re repeating the answer because it’s important to know: The answer is yes. You won’t know you have high blood pressure until the disease reaches an advanced stage and causes extensive damage to your cardiovascular system. 

That’s why it’s essential to have regular blood pressure screenings. Taking your blood pressure is the only way to discover the problem at an early stage.

About blood pressure stages and symptoms

High blood pressure gradually builds up over many years, going through progressive stages. You begin with slightly elevated blood pressure, a stage at which it’s higher than normal but not yet high enough to qualify as hypertension.

At this stage, lifestyle modifications can lower your blood pressure and prevent hypertension from developing. Once high blood pressure takes hold, the disease is chronic, incurable, and without treatment, can keep rising.

Your blood pressure is measured by two numbers, systolic and diastolic. The systolic number represents the pressure when your heart pumps blood into the arteries. The diastolic number is the pressure between heartbeats.

Throughout these stages, high blood pressure causes ongoing damage to your arteries and heart, and you still don’t have symptoms alerting you to a problem.

But there’s another stage that can cause symptoms called a hypertensive crisis.

Symptoms during a hypertensive crisis

A hypertensive crisis is a rare problem. When it occurs, your systolic pressure rises above 180 and/or your diastolic pressure goes above 120. At this level, you may experience the symptoms reported in the lists online.

During a hypertensive crisis, you may have:

A hypertensive crisis is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.

Health complications caused by high blood pressure

High blood pressures damages the inner walls of your arteries, creating areas where cholesterol can take hold and accumulate. These fatty plaques enlarge and harden, causing atherosclerosis. The larger the plaque becomes, the more it restricts blood flow.

The serious complications resulting from high blood pressure include:

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease limits the blood supply to your heart, which causes heart attacks.

Carotid artery disease

The carotid arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain. When they’re blocked, you have a stroke.

Renal artery stenosis

Your renal arteries deliver blood to your kidneys. If atherosclerosis develops in a renal artery, it leads to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.

Peripheral artery disease 

Peripheral artery disease occurs when atherosclerosis develops in leg arteries. The loss of blood causes arterial ulcers, tissue death, and potentially leads to an amputation.

Heart conditions

The changes in your arteries put excessive pressure on your heart, making it work harder and leading to heart diseases, such as heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, and an enlarged heart.

Symptoms of advanced arterial disease

Symptoms develop as the diseases mentioned above reach an advanced stage. Your symptoms are not due to high blood pressure. They occur because of the artery and heart conditions caused by hypertension.

You may have:

Unfortunately, the first symptom of high blood pressure is often a heart attack or stroke.

Get blood pressure testing

The only way to know you have high blood pressure is to measure it. We offer routine blood pressure screenings and recommend individualized treatments to lower your blood pressure if it’s higher than normal.

To learn about your blood pressure, call our office in The Woodlands, Texas, or request an appointment online today.

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