Doctor's Notes on High Blood Pressure Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Diet, and Medications
High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension. In high blood pressure, the pressure within the arteries (vessels that carry blood away from the heart) is abnormally elevated. Causes of high blood pressure include familial (inherited) factors and increased stiffness of the arteries. High blood pressure causes a number of health complications including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
High blood pressure typically does not cause specific symptoms or signs. When symptoms do occur or in cases with marked elevation of blood pressure, associated symptoms can include
- blurred vision,
- shortness of breath,
- headache, and
- a feeling of pulsations in the head or neck.
Symptoms of complications of severe hypertension can include
What Is the Treatment for High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure control is a lifelong challenge. Hypertension can progress through the years, and treatments that worked earlier in life may need to be adjusted over time. Blood pressure control may involve gradually making lifestyle changes like diet, weight loss, exercise, and possibly taking medication if necessary. In some situations, medications may be recommended immediately. As with many diseases, you and your doctor should work together to find the treatment plan that works for you.
There also is a stepwise approach to treating high blood pressure, and it combines the stage of hypertension with the calculated risk of future atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD, heart attack, or stroke). There are online calculators that are available from the American Heart Association.
- If the person has normal blood pressure, the recommendation is to promote positive lifestyle habits and have blood pressure readings checked every year.
- If there is elevated blood pressure, lifestyle modifications should be attempted and blood pressure should be rechecked in 3-6 months.
- In stage 1 hypertension, if the risk of ASCVD is less than 10%, lifestyle modification is recommended with a recheck in 1-6 months.
- In stage 1 hypertension with ASCVD risk greater than 10%, medications should be added to lifestyle modification with a reassessment in 1 month. If normal blood pressure goals are not met, additional medications may be added.
- With Stage 2 hypertension, medications and lifestyle modification should begin immediately, with a recheck in 1 month and adding additional medications if goals are not met.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.