During very emotional moments, or after particularly cholesterol-heavy meals, have you been told by friends and family to "watch your blood pressure"? Their concern means that you might be enjoying a lifestyle that puts you at risk of high blood pressure. Why is it important that your blood pressure doesn't get too high? High blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to coronary heart diseases like strokes and cardiac arrest, and can prove to be fatal.
It's important, therefore, that you learn to recognize the symptoms of high blood pressure as early as possible. Blood pressure is the overall force exerted against the walls of your blood vessels as your blood flows throughout your body. Imagine a hose suddenly getting firmer as water shoots through it - that's what blood pressure does to your veins and arteries.
There are two types of pressure:
- Systolic pressure, which happens when your heart beats and pumps blood into your system; and
- Diastolic pressure, in which your heart rests and gets filled up with blood.
You'll need to measure both to get a picture of your blood pressure. Head to a clinic or a doctor and ask to get your blood pressure taken. Normal adult blood pressure has a systolic pressure of 120mm Hg and a diastolic pressure of 80mm Hg, so a reading higher than that is considered high blood pressure. From there, your doctor can advise you on any treatments or lifestyle adjustments you may need to take.
However, some of us will end up not going to the doctor at all because we don't recognize the symptoms of high blood pressure. Here are some ways to tell whether or not your blood pressure is higher than it should be:
- Persistent headache or heavy-headedness. If you've got a headache that won't seem to go away, and pain medications prove only to be a temporary fix, that may be the strain exerted by the high pressure in the blood vessels in and around your head. The same goes for when your head consistently feels heavy.
- Giddiness. The high pressure can result in an experience of extra energy, making you feel giddy as a result.
- Blurry Vision. High blood pressure can cause swelling in the optic nerve, blurring or impairing your vision. Serious cases can even lead to complete blindness.
- Exhaustion and Shortness of Breath. High blood pressure can also be attributed to over-activity of the heart. This can happen in cases where a small blockage in your blood vessels (most often due to a buildup of cholesterol) forces your heart to exert itself more to get blood past the blockage. This can lead to an experience of exhaustion, and you may have difficulty maintaining long breaths.
- Irritability. The strain on your blood vessels can lead you to feel easily agitated. Your frequent loss of temper may be connected to a high blood pressure problem.
- Blacking Out. In the most severe cases, the extremely high blood pressure can affect your brain, resulting in a loss of consciousness.
Know how to recognize the symptoms of high blood pressure before it is too late.