Identifying hypertension symptoms can be a difficult task
because, in its early stages, this disease is often asymptomatic. Unless a
blood pressure check reveals continuously elevated levels, there are usually no
other outward signs. It's for this reason hypertension is referred to as the
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is high blood pressure. Blood travels through
your arteries to deliver oxygen rich blood to your organs and tissues. If this
blood flow meets resistance, it elevates the pressure in your arteries, leading
to hypertension. Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure (the
top number) under 120mmHg and a diastolic pressure (the bottom number) under
80mmHg. Pre-hypertension readings are between 121-139mmHg for systolic pressure
and 81-90mmHg for diastolic pressure. Hypertension is classified as a systolic
pressure of 140-159mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90-99mmHg.
For a person to be officially diagnosed with hypertension,
he must have three or more consecutive blood pressure readings over 140mmHg
systolic and over 90mmHg diastolic taken on separate days. Even with this
diagnosis, outward hypertension symptoms are not always evident. A person may
have hypertension for years before showing any physical signs other than high
blood pressure readings.
One of the earliest manifestations of hypertension is a
headache in the morning that tends to subside as the day goes on. The pain is
usually felt in the back of the head and the neck. If hypertension continues
without treatment, it may progress to confusion, dizziness, vision
disturbances, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and nausea and vomiting. Signs
that untreated hypertension has led to organ damage include kidney failure,
stroke, heart failure, progressive vision loss, and aortic aneurysms.
Treatment and control
of hypertension symptoms
Hypertension symptoms can be treated with drug therapy and
lifestyle changes. Medications commonly used to treat hypertension include
diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta-adrenergic blockers, and calcium channel
blockers. Each of these drug types has different sites of action in the body so
it's not uncommon to be prescribed two or more medications to control high
Lifestyle modifications include dietary changes that reduce
the amount of salt and saturated fat intake and increase the intake of fruits
and vegetables. Regular physical activity can reduce stress and prevent
excessive weight gain, both of which have been shown to raise blood pressure.
Cessation of smoking is highly encouraged since nicotine may interfere with the
effectiveness of hypertension medications.
Jennifer Budd is a
graduate nurse and certified nursing assistant.