Hypertension is a serious condition. Many people don’t know they have it. Because of this, it is called the “silent killer.” Below, we look at the signs and symptoms of hypertension.

Nearly 85 million Americans have hypertension (high blood pressure). Many others don’t know they have it. It’s sometimes called the “silent killer”, because there are few noticeable warning signs. Left untreated, high blood pressure can cause many serious conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension

What is Blood Pressure?

  • When your heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes your blood through your arteries, veins and capillaries. Blood Pressure is the force of your blood pushing against these blood vessels.
  • It is the result of two forces. The first force (systolic pressure) is the pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls during heartbeats as blood is pumped out of your heart to circulate around your body. The second force (diastolic pressure) is the pressure created as the heart rests between heart beats.
  • It is these two forces that are represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading e.g. 120/80. The top number is the systolic blood pressure and the bottom one is the diastolic pressure.
  • Your blood pressure fluctuates across the day, depending on what you are doing. Brief rises in blood pressure are normal for example, during sleep, if you are excited or nervous and when you are active.


What Is Hypertension?

When your blood pressure stays consistently too high, it is called hypertension.

It causes harm by increasing the workload of your heart and blood vessels. Over time, this causes damage inside the arteries. Hypertension can lead to:


There are two main types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary hypertension.

  1. Primary, or essential, hypertension is the most common. It tends to develop over years as a person gets older.
  1. Secondary hypertension is caused by another medical condition. It usually resolves after the cause is treated.


Causes of Hypertension


Blood pressure tends to rise with age. About 65% of Americans age 60 or over have the condition. 


Hypertension is more common in African American adults than in Caucasian or Hispanic American adults.

Being Overweight

If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop hypertension. The risk of hypertension appears to be increasing for children and teens. This is possibly due to the rise in the number of children and teens who are overweight.


Men are more likely than women to develop hypertension before the age of 55. After 55, women are more likely than men to develop it. 

Lifestyle Habits

  • Eating too much sodium or not enough potassium.
  • Lack of regular exercise.
  • Drinking excess amounts of alcohol.
  • Drinking too much coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks).
  • Not getting enough sleep or have disturbed sleep.

Family History

If there is a family history of the condition, you are at increased risk of developing it.


Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension

  • Most of the time, there are no obvious signs. You might not feel anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage to your blood vessels and threatening your health.
  • Being aware of your risk factors can help you identify any changes you may need to make to avoid developing hypertension.

The only way you can know whether you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

  • A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80mm/Hg. An abnormal increase in blood pressure is defined as having a reading higher than 120/80 mmHg.
  • A single high reading does not mean that you have hypertension. Sometimes, the stress of being in a doctor’s surgery (referred to as white-coat syndrome) can increase your blood pressure. But, if your readings continue to stay high, your doctor will begin treatment.

Although most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, a few have the following symptoms:

  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • nosebleeds

Hypertension is termed ‘the silent killer.’  Unlike with other conditions, it’s not easy to tell if something is wrong. Getting your blood pressure measured is the only way you can find out whether or not it is raised.  Given there are few obvious signs and symptoms of hypertension, knowing the risks factors and adjusting your lifestyle accordingly, can help you lessen your chances of developing the condition.