Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major health problem. While your blood pressure normally rises and falls during the day, if it remains too high for too long, it can cause serious complications, including increased risk for heart, brain, and kidney diseases, and even death.
According to the CDC, hypertension was a primary or contributing cause of death for almost more than 650,000 people in the US in 2020, and what’s worse, only 24% of those living with it have it under control. The World Health Organization estimates 46% of adults who have hypertension are unaware that they do.
At Northwest Houston Heart Center, cardiologists Dr. A. Adnan Aslam and Dr. Roy Norman know you may not be aware of hypertension because it often doesn’t cause any symptoms. That’s why it’s called a “silent killer.” However, there are some subtle signs you should be aware of that can indicate you have a problem.
What blood pressure is and how it’s measured
The easiest and quickest way to determine if you have hypertension is to get regular blood pressure readings. You can get one at almost any doctor’s office or pharmacy, and there are at-home devices you can use to test yourself.
Leading out of your heart are a series of arteries, the main conduits that convey oxygen-rich blood from your heart to nourish your body’s tissues. Blood pressure measures how much force the blood exerts on your arteries’ walls during its journey.
Blood pressure readings are reported as two numbers, stated as one over the other. The upper number, known as the systolic pressure, is the force against the walls when the heart is actively beating. The lower number, known as the diastolic pressure; is the force against the walls when the heart rests between beats. Each number is reported in mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) displaced in the device. In healthy adults, a normal blood pressure reading should be 120/80 or lower.
When the readings fall above these numbers, it’s known as hypertension. This causes the heart to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, and the increased force can damage the blood vessels, as well as your kidneys, eyes, and even your brain.
Subtle signs of hypertension
Hypertension is known as a silent killer for a reason; it’s rare that the condition causes any symptoms before it leads to major disease.
However, there are some subtle signs that may appear. These include:
- Early morning headaches
- Irregular heart rhythms (arrythmias)
- Vision changes
- Buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)
If your hypertension is well advanced, it can lead to fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors. Any of these symptoms is a sign that you should get medical help as soon as possible.
What are preventable factors for hypertension?
Most causes of hypertension can be traced back to lifestyle factors, which can be modified to prevent it from developing. These include:
- Reducing sodium intake
- Eating a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Exercising regularly
- Refraining from tobacco use
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Limiting foods high in saturated fats
- Eliminating/reducing trans fats
If you have a family history of high blood pressure, or if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension, you should reduce and manage stress, get regular blood pressure checks, take any medications your physician prescribes to lower your pressure, and manage any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to the high pressure.
If you haven’t had your blood pressure taken recently, if you’re at risk for hypertension, or if you're exhibiting symptoms, you need to make an appointment at Northwest Houston Heart Center for an evaluation and possible treatment. Give us a call at one of our locations — in Cypress, Tomball, Magnolia, or The Woodlands, Texas — or book online today. You can also text us at 832-402-9518.