Hypertension is a disease in which the blood flowing through arteries has increased pressure. When blood pressure is measured, two values are taken: the systolic (higher number) and diastolic (lower number). If either of these numbers is increased beyond their normal ranges, hypertension is diagnosed. Multiple readings need to be taken to rule out transient increases in blood pressure (due to anxiety from being in a doctor’s office). The pressure at which blood flows in arteries is important because a pressure that is too low will lead to inadequate delivery of nutrients to the body and in the case of hypertension, the increased pressure is high enough to damage the arteries and various organs. An alarming feature of hypertension is that it presents with no symptoms. Symptoms become present when the blood pressure rises extremely high or when organ damage occurs. Some of the structures that can be damaged by high blood pressure are the kidneys, heart, brain, and eyes. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes worldwide.
Hypertension presents without symptoms unless your blood pressure is extremely high. When your blood pressure exceeds 180/120 mm Hg it is considered a hypertensive crisis – a medical emergency. If your blood pressure is very high and you have a headache, feel unwell, or a nosebleed occurs, call 911. Emergency-level symptoms that require immediate medical attention with a high blood pressure reading are:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Dizziness and/or nausea
- Visual disturbances
- Feeling unwell