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High Blood Pressure Symptoms: What Cardiologists Insist You Know

The longer hypertension goes untreated, the more dangerous it can become.

If you’re feeling as healthy as a horse, with no obvious signs of out-of-the-ordinary health issues, there’s no need to go the doctor … right? While that may seem like a perfectly logical rule to live by, when it comes to high blood pressure, skipping your routine checkup isn’t a wise choice—even if you feel no symptoms whatsoever.

“We call [high blood pressure] the silent killer,” says Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD, a cardiologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center. That’s because high blood pressure often doesn’t show any symptoms. In many cases, when there are high blood pressure symptoms, the hypertension is at an advanced stage and a lot of damage—sometimes even life-threatening—has already been done. (Here’s what your blood pressure number reading means.)

“The problem is that patients don’t always know that they have high blood pressure, and if you don’t know you have it, you haven’t had it treated,” says Dr. Bloom. “And then you’re at an increased risk of developing a problem.”

Untreated high blood pressure affects your entire body. It increases your risk of many health conditions, such as stroke, heart failure, vision loss, erectile dysfunction in men, decreased sex drive in women, and kidney disease.

Malignant hypertension, when the blood pressure is very, very high, is a life-threatening medical emergency. If you feel any of these symptoms, call your doctor or 911:

  • Blurred vision
  • Change in mental status, such as anxiety, confusion, or decreased alertness
  • Chest pain (feeling of crushing or pressure)
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness or weakness of the arms, legs, face, or other areas
  • Reduced urine output
  • Seizure
  • Shortness of breath

That’s why it’s critical to get your blood pressure checked routinely, and not wait for a potential high blood pressure symptom to alert you of a problem. If you’re over 40 years old or are at high risk for blood pressure, it’s recommended that you get your blood pressure checked once a year. If you’re between 18 and 40, get your blood pressure checked every three to five years, or per your doctor’s advice.

If it turns out you do have high blood pressure, check out these tips to lower your blood pressure naturally and this guide to understanding blood pressure medications.

Rachel Bond, MD

This video features information from Rachel Bond, MD. Dr. Bond is a cardiologist and associate director of the Women's Heart Health Program at Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.

Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD

This video features information from Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD. Dr. Bloom is an associate professor of medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and a fellow of the Heart Failure Society of America.

Duration: 1:29. Last Updated On: April 9, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
Reviewed by: Preeti Parikh, MD . Review date: April 9, 2018
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