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Symptoms of Hypertension

How do I know if I have high blood pressure? Primary high blood pressure (also known as primary or uncomplicated hypertension) often has no signs or symptoms. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to be tested for it.

For this reason, high blood pressure is often called "the silent killer" because you may not know you have it until you start having serious complications with your heart, brain, or kidneys. It is thought that 30% of the population in the US does not know they have high blood pressure because they do not have any symptoms.

Nevertheless, some people with high blood pressure do experience symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision

Secondary hypertension, which is driven by a medical condition in another organ, may be indicated in situations where:

  • Very sudden onset of above symptoms
  • Children or young adults
  • Onset after seniors (50 and over) with no prior elevated blood pressure
  • No family history of hypertension
  • Resistance to treatment with medication

Who Gets Hypertension? About 65 million American adults--nearly 1 in 3--have high blood pressure. In the U.S., high blood pressure occurs more often in African Americans. Compared to other groups, African Americans:

  • Tend to get high blood pressure earlier in life
  • Usually have more severe high blood pressures
  • Have a higher death rate from stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Many people get high blood pressure as they get older. Over half of all Americans age 60 and older have high blood pressure. This is not a part of healthy aging! There are things you can do to help keep your blood pressure normal, such as eating a healthy diet and getting more exercise.

Your chances of getting high blood pressure are also higher if you:
  • Are overweight
  • Are a man over the age of 45
  • Are a woman over the age of 55 (Men generally have a higher risk of high blood pressure. The risk for women increases during pregnancy and after menopause.)
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure
  • Have a "prehypertension (120-139/80-89)"

Other things that can raise blood pressure include:

  • Eating too much salt
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not eating enough potassium
  • Not exercising
  • Taking certain medicines
  • Stress that is long-lasting

Your risk of getting high blood pressure is much higher if you have preexisting conditions such as:

  • Heart Disease (enlarged heart, heart failure, angina, bypass surgery)
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Previous strokes or mini-strokes
  • Kidney damage
  • Damage to the retina of the eye
  • Damage to the blood vessels

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This information is not a substitute for your doctor's medical advice