What Do High Blood Pressure Symptoms Feel Like?

Reviewed on 5/18/2021

High blood pressure (hypertension) causes the heart to work too hard when pumping blood through the arteries, which puts a person at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. High blood pressure often causes no symptoms, but they can include pounding headaches, vomiting, feeling of dizziness, facial flushing, feeling tired, blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage).
High blood pressure (hypertension) causes the heart to work too hard when pumping blood through the arteries, which puts a person at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. High blood pressure often causes no symptoms, but they can include pounding headaches, vomiting, feeling of dizziness, facial flushing, feeling tired, blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage).

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a condition in which the force of blood pumping through the arteries is consistently too high. When this occurs, the walls of the arteries are expanded beyond their normal limit, which can lead to damage and scarring and put people at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease

Blood pressure is expressed in two numbers: 

  • Systolic blood pressure (the first/top number): measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the second/bottom number): measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats

High, elevated, and normal blood pressure is usually defined in the following ranges.

Blood Pressure Chart
Blood Pressure Category Blood Pressure Level
Normal blood pressure Less than 120/80 mmHg

Elevated blood pressure (prehypertension/at risk for high blood pressure)

Between 120/80 and 139/89
High blood pressure (hypertension) 140/90 mmHg or more

High blood pressure (hypertension) is often called “the silent killer” because it’s common for people who have it to have no symptoms and people often don’t feel anything abnormal. A healthcare professional can measure blood pressure to know for sure if you have high blood pressure.

Uncommonly, severe high blood pressure can cause or be accompanied by symptoms such as: 

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Risk factors for developing high blood pressure (hypertension) include:

  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Gender 
  • Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure than women up to age 64
  • Beginning at age 65, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men
  • African-Americans in the U.S. tend to develop high blood pressure more often than other races 
  • Age 

Risk factors for developing high blood pressure that can be managed or prevented include:

How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?

Blood pressure is measured with a pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer) placed around the upper arm and manually or electronically inflated. When inflated, the cuff compresses the brachial artery, the major blood vessel of the upper arm, briefly stopping blood flow. The air in the cuff is then released slowly while the person performing the measurement listens with a stethoscope or monitors an electronic readout.

Adults 20 years of age and older should have their blood pressure checked during regular doctor visits.

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Blood Pressure: Exercise Tips See Slideshow

What Is the Treatment for High Blood Pressure?

Lifestyle changes are usually the first line treatment for high blood pressure (hypertension), including: 

  • Eating a balanced diet that low in salt
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol
  • Not smoking
  • Managing stress
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Taking medications as directed

When medications are needed to treat high blood pressure, they may include: 

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Reviewed on 5/18/2021
References
https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure

https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/free-publications-women/high-blood-pressure-medicines-help-you