What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

June 16, 2023

Primary Care Heart and Vascular Wellness
Mature adult woman has blood pressure checked

One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure and many don’t even know it. How can this be? Because high blood pressure rarely has any symptoms. 

“High blood pressure or hypertension is known as a silent disease because you may not feel any symptoms at all,” says Kristine Dutton, FNP, at Riverside Mathews Medical Center.  

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against your blood vessel walls. High blood pressure is when that force is higher than normal. It often has no signs or symptoms and can lead to other health problems if it’s not treated.

Blood pressure is mostly a silent disease

Unfortunately, high blood pressure can happen without feeling any abnormal symptoms.

Moderate or severe headaches, anxiety, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, palpitations, or feeling of pulsations in the neck are some signs of high blood pressure. Often, these are late signs that high blood pressure has existed for some time, therefore annual checks are recommended for all adults.

Get to know your numbers

Because there aren’t any symptoms, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Get to know the numbers and when to get help from your doctor.

Your blood pressure will have two numbers:

  • Systolic is the upper number, measuring when your heart is forcing blood through your vessels.
  • Diastolic is the lower number, measuring pressure between heart beats.

For example, 120/80 indicates a systolic blood pressure of 120 and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm/Hg.

What is a normal blood pressure?

Both the American Heart Association and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have published guidelines for defining healthy and elevated blood pressure. You can follow either guidelines, depending on what you and your doctor agree is acceptable.

USPSTF Guidelines for Blood Pressure
Normal Systolic: Less than 120 mm Hg
Diastolic:Less than 80 mm Hg
Elevated Systolic: 120-129 mm Hg
Diastolic: <Less than 80 mm Hg


AHA Guidelines for Blood Pressure
Normal Systolic: Less than 120 mm Hg
Diastolic: Less than 80 mm Hg
Elevated Systolic: 120-129 mm Hg
Diastolic: Less than 80 mm Hg
High Blood Pressure Stage 1 (Hypertension) Systolic: 130-139 mm Hg
Diastolic: 80-89 mm Hg
High Blood Pressure Stage 2 (Hypertension) Systolic: 140 mm Hg or higher
Diastolic: 90 mm Hg or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Systolic: Higher than 180 mm Hg
Diastolic: Higher than 120 mm Hg

Who is at risk for high blood pressure?

Your family history, lifestyle and medications can increase the chances you’ll develop high blood pressure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Age
  • Overweight
  • Family history
  • Diet high in salt
  • Drinking too much
  • Some medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, also known as NSAIDS, some decongestants, weight loss medicines and stimulants)
  • Some underlying health conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, kidney conditions, adrenal gland tumors and thyroid diseases
  • Inactivity
  • Tobacco and illicit drug use
  • Other

Unfortunately, family history is a large contributing factor. Even if you eat well, are physically active and avoid risk factors, you may still experience high blood pressure.

When to see a doctor

Consult your doctor if you fall in the at-risk or high blood pressure categories above.

If your blood pressure is in the crisis range, contact your doctor immediately. Call 911 if you’re experiencing any other symptoms like chest pain, blurred vision or slurred speech.

How is high blood pressure treated?

Treatment for high blood pressure will commonly include medication and healthy lifestyle changes such as:

  • Losing weight
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Reducing stress 

“Changing a few daily habits like walking more and eating less salt can bring blood pressure into normal range,” says Ms. Dutton.

Do you know your numbers?

Schedule an appointment with Kristine Dutton today to get to know your numbers.

Our caring primary care physicians are here to help you stay on track with your health. Expert help is just a call away.


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