High blood pressure (HBP) is louder than you may think. Often called the “silent killer”, hypertension has symptoms to let you know it is present. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, blurred vision, seizures, unexplained anxiety, and more. Though nonspecific these signs and symptoms do correlate with high blood pressure. If you have a family history of HBP and heart problems, it is very likely the symptoms will be present. Untreated hypertension may lead to more serious conditions like heart attacks and strokes.
When you experience symptoms suggestive of hypertension, it is important to get it checked. This should be done by a health care professional, but can be done at home, also. Consistent readings above 140/90 call for assessment and treatment. A complete physical exam, complete blood tests, and EKG should be done to check for overall good health and findings that are seen with hypertension.
On physical exam the eye exam may reveal retinopathy and artery narrowing. This is associated with decreased vision and can proceed to blindness. Bruits over the carotid arteries in the neck and over the abdomen area suggest vascular disease that can block the arteries off. This can lead to strokes, chronic kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation in legs), sexual dysfunction and more. Heart findings and EKG changes can show signs of heart disease that accompany hypertension. Blood tests provide further information and can even help assess if there are secondary causes. Your doctor correlates all the information to assess a treatment plan.
Initial therapy includes lifestyle changes like a healthy, nutritious diet, good sleep, low stress, and exercise. If your blood pressure reading consistently remains elevated medication may be needed. This may be temporary or lifetime depending on your lifestyle health habits. For example, weight loss and eating the right foods especially those known to decrease blood pressure, can totally eliminate the need for medication and its side effects that can create new chronic problems. The best part is that you will feel better, and hopefully prevent any problems from untreated high blood pressure. Best health!