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Are You Living With Symptom-Free Hypertension, AKA The “Silent Killer”?

By Adam Trainor June 28, 2019

High blood pressure or hypertension is a very common (and dangerous) problem, but guess what?

Most people don’t even know they have it.

The condition itself isn’t associated with any major signs or symptoms.

You may now be wondering: is there a way to tell if I have high blood pressure?

Throughout this post, we’re going to focus on what signs to look with high blood pressure.

Let's dive right in!

How many people have hypertension?

High blood pressure is one of the most common health problems in the world, but it would be difficult to pinpoint a certain number of people who have this condition.

Some reports show that 26% of the world's population, or 972 million people have hypertension. The prevalence of high blood pressure is set to increase by 29% by 2025. Other reports show that 1.3 billion people or 31% of all adults in the world have hypertension.

7.5 million deaths each year occur due to high blood pressure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that 7.5 million deaths or 12.8% of total deaths across the globe each year occur due to high blood pressure. The severity of the condition is best depicted by the fact that the prevalence of hypertension jumped from 600 million in 1980 to nearly 1 billion in 2008. On a global level, the prevalence of high blood pressure is the highest in Africa.

 Hypertension stats

High blood pressure worldwide stats (Source: WHO)

In the US, about 103 million people have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The number of hypertension-related deaths has increased by 38% in the period between 2005 and 2015. Prevalence of high blood pressure in the US is expected to rise even more along with health complications associated with it.

 Hypertension stats US

Hypertension stats US (Source: AHA)

Symptoms of hypertension

Generally speaking, high blood pressure does not cause any noticeable symptoms, except in the case of hypertensive crisis, a medical emergency wherein blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or higher.

Blood pressure readings

Blood pressure readings (Source: AHA)

In fact:

The main reason why hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” is that symptoms are almost always absent, and an affected person doesn't even know they have it.

One-third of people who have hypertension don’t even know they have it. That's why hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer”.

Many people can have high blood pressure for years without realizing it until they or their doctor check it.

According to some reports, as many as one-third of people who have hypertension don’t know they have the condition.

REMEMBER THIS DANGEROUS MYTH!

The AHA warns about "the dangerous myth," which is the belief that all people with hypertension experience various symptoms such as sweating, nervousness, facial flushing, and trouble sleeping.

What's dangerous about this myth is that it people tend to think they'll experience some kind of symptoms if something's wrong.

As a result, many people don't check their blood pressure because they don't think anything bad is happening, which could potentially jeopardize their health.

Symptoms linked to (but not caused by) hypertension

Various symptoms can be directly related to high blood pressure, but are not always caused by it.

It’s important to address those symptoms because people often consider them as telltale signs of hypertension. Some of them include:

• Dizziness – despite the fact that some blood pressure medications can, indeed, cause dizziness, the condition itself doesn't cause it unless a person is in hypertensive crisis. That being said, this is a symptom you should not ignore, particularly if it occurs suddenly.

Dizziness

Source: giphy.com

Abrupt dizziness combined with the loss of balance and trouble walking is major warning signs of a stroke. That’s not such a surprise if we bear in mind that high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke.

• Blood spots in the eyes – although subconjunctival hemorrhage or blood spots in the eyes is a common occurrence in patients with hypertension and diabetes neither of these conditions causes this symptom directly.

• Facial flushing – occurs when blood vessels in the face dilate. This symptom can occur in response to various triggers such as the sun or it happens unpredictably. Emotional stress can also cause facial flushing. Even though some people with hypertension can have facial flushing, the condition doesn't cause this symptom directly.

Is it possible to demonstrate signs of hypertension?

The above-mentioned are symptoms that can occur in people with hypertension but are not caused by this condition.

Make no mistake:

You should NOT rely on dizziness or facial flushing to appear in order to determine whether you have high blood pressure and do something about it.

Always keep in mind that hypertension has no symptoms in many cases, and you need to monitor your blood pressure regularly or go to regular doctor's checkups.

In some cases, when symptoms do appear, they include:

 ○ Shortness of breath – due to the fact that high blood pressure affects heart and lung function you may experience shortness of breath, especially if you participate in a physical activity.

 ○ Dizziness (but remember, hypertension doesn’t cause it per se).

 ○ Headache – recurrent headaches are quite common in people with high blood pressure. Some people with hypertension notice that their headaches are worse if they don't take their medications or when their blood pressure is higher than usual.

 ○ Nosebleed – although not a classic sign of hypertension, some people may get nosebleeds if their blood pressure is elevated. Again, you shouldn’t count on this symptom to appear in order to take action.

These symptoms, in addition to high blood pressure, should not be taken lightly.

Instead, you should see the doctor immediately.

 Hypertension symptoms

Hypertension symptoms (Source: Very Well Health)

Symptoms of extremely high blood pressure

When blood pressure gets extremely high (hypertensive crisis), an affected person may experience a whole range of symptoms that should not be ignored.

Symptoms of the hypertensive crisis include:

 ○ Seizures

 ○ Shortness of breath

 ○ Unresponsiveness

 ○ Severe chest pain

 ○ Nausea and vomiting

 ○ Severe headache combined with blurred vision and confusion

 ○ Severe anxiety 

Some people may also notice blood in urine, pounding in the chest, neck, or ears.

These symptoms require urgent medical intervention. Call 911 if it happens to you or someone you know.

Ambulance

Source: Pinterest.com

How to prevent high blood pressure?

In some people, hypertension develops gradually over the years, while in others, it occurs due to an underlying condition.

There are many ways that can help us to reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

For example:

 ○ Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients that our body needs to function properly

 ○ Avoid consuming foods rich in sugar, unhealthy fat or heavily processed items

 ○ Quit smoking and drinking

 ○ Maintain weight in a healthy range

 ○ Exercise regularly and increase your physical activity levels by striving to move more during the day

 ○ Manage stress properly 

 ○ Go to doctor’s checkups regularly.

Certain dietary supplements could potentially help with high blood pressure, too. A number of studies looking at animal models have found that molecular hydrogen could potentially be beneficial for promoting healthy blood pressure, particularly pulmonary hypertension, but more research is needed before we can make any conclusions about its efficacy in humans.

In conclusion...

High blood pressure is a serious condition that leads to cardiovascular diseases and events such as heart attack and stroke if not managed properly.

Hypertension doesn't usually induce symptoms, only when your blood pressure is dangerously high- often when it's too late.

Many people have hypertension without even realizing it.

It's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and see a doctor regularly or try to measure your blood pressure if you have the measuring cuff because so many people have hypertension without realizing it.

There's a lot you can do to manage this condition effectively, such as lifestyle adjustments and adherence to doctor-recommended treatment.

References

https://www.medscape.com/answers/241381-7614/what-is-the-global-prevalence-of-hypertension-high-blood-pressure

https://www.ashjournal.com/article/S1933-1711(16)30489-2/pdf

https://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/blood_pressure_prevalence_text/en/

https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/more-than-100-million-americans-have-high-blood-pressure-aha-says

https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-symptoms-high-blood-pressure

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure

https://www.verywellhealth.com/symptoms-of-hypertension-1763965

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/hypertensive-crisis/faq-20058491

 


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