Is your blood pressure out of control? “High blood pressure is a medical condition in which blood pressure is persistently higher than 130/80 mm Hg,” says Andrew Yocum, MD. “High blood pressure increases the risk of heart diseases like coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Lifestyle changes and sometimes prescription blood pressure medication can help lower or manage high blood pressure.” Want to learn more? Here are five signs your blood pressure could be out of control. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Headaches could be a sign of high blood pressure. “If you have a sudden, intense headache that’s significantly worse than usual and your blood pressure is elevated, you should seek medical attention,” says cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD. “Another thing to remember about headaches and blood pressure is that it’s not always the blood pressure that causes a headache. It could be the other way around. Sometimes, it’s a chicken and the egg scenario. We don’t know which comes first. Headaches can cause an elevation in blood pressure.”
Shortness of breath is a common symptom of pulmonary hypertension. “That is the most common presenting symptom,” says Vallerie McLaughlin, MD, director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. “[It’s because] the right side of the heart is having trouble pushing blood flow through the lungs — and it’s not getting to the left side of the heart and body. It puts strain on the right side of the heart, which is not used to pushing against the high pressure.”
Anxiety and high blood pressure are linked, experts say. “Anxiety doesn’t cause long-term high blood pressure (hypertension),” says Sheldon G. Sheps, MD. “But episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure. If those temporary spikes occur frequently, such as every day, they can cause damage to blood vessels, the heart and kidneys, as can chronic high blood pressure.”
“High blood pressure is not usually a direct cause of nosebleeds, but some research links the two,” says Dr. Yocum. “One study found that, compared to people with normal blood pressure, those who have hypertensive have a greater risk of nosebleeds that may require medical attention. Another study suggested that hypertension is not usually the cause of a bloody nose, but it can make nosebleeds harder to control.”
Nausea and vomiting could be a symptom of a spike in blood pressure, doctors say. “If you get a very high blood pressure reading at home and don’t have any symptoms, relax for a few minutes,” says Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD. “Then check your blood pressure again. If it’s still very high, seek medical care. Call 911 or emergency medical services if your blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or greater and you have chest pain, shortness of breath, or symptoms of stroke. Stroke symptoms include numbness or tingling, trouble speaking, or changes in vision.”