A scary condition, high blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to deadly complications. What’s really scary, though, is that most people do not even know they have it. Hypertension is sometimes called “the silent killer” because most often, people experience no symptoms until the condition has progressed far enough to damage health. High blood pressure feels like nothing.
Why Visit the Doctor Regularly?
Common misconceptions claim people with hypertension feel it. People believe they will experience nosebleeds, dizzy spells, insomnia, nervousness, blurred vision, chest pain, frequent headaches or shortness of breath. People think they will notice visible signs of hypertension in a flushed face and profuse perspiration. In most cases, however, people with hypertension experience no symptoms and have no idea blood pressure is dangerously high. Most individuals do not receive treatment until visiting a doctor for a completely different reason, only to be surprised by a high blood pressure reading.
If left unaddressed, high blood pressure can lead to serious, sometimes irreversible, problems:
- Thickening or hardening of the arteries, causing heart attacks or strokes.
- Weakened blood vessels which rupture during an aneurysm.
- Thickened heart muscles which struggle to pump blood, leading to heart failure.
- Narrowing or weakening of blood vessels in the kidneys, hindering kidney function and leading to renal failure.
- Narrowed, weakened or thickened blood vessels in the eyes impair vision.
- Damage to the optic nerve, causing permanent vision loss.
- Increased risk of developing diabetes.
- Impaired cognitive function which affects your memory, ability to focus and to understand or learn new concepts.
Since the symptoms of high blood pressure typically do not present themselves until serious conditions have progressed, it is necessary to proactively monitor your blood pressure. To protect your health from the adverse effects of hypertension, attend regular blood pressure screenings through a local clinic or pharmacy or schedule regular health screenings with your family doctor.
High Risk Groups
Certain individuals might be at higher risk for developing high blood pressure, in which case more frequent screening and preventative measures might be prudent. Risk factors for developing high blood pressure include:
- Family History – Hypertension is an inherited disease. If you have close biological relatives with high blood pressure or heart disease, then you are at risk.
- Age – With age, blood vessels lose their elasticity, which can contribute to hypertension. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop high blood pressure – even if you had normal or low blood pressure at a younger age.
- Gender/Age – Men younger than 64 are more likely to develop hypertension. After age 65, it’s women who are at higher risk.
- Race – African-Americans are at an elevated risk for developing hypertension and more severe cases, too.
- Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – CKD puts patients at risk of hypertension.
- Lifestyle – Smoking, drinking, chronic stress, insomnia, not exercising and eating an unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure.
If you are at risk of developing hypertension, taking steps to monitor your blood pressure regularly and making healthy lifestyle choices can safeguard your wellbeing, longevity and quality of life from the complications of hypertension.