Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure

Learn the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure.

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What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?

Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure may include:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • vision problems
  • shortness of breath

However, most people with high blood pressure have no symptoms. For this reason, it is important to know your blood pressure numbers.

Should you be tested?

Your health care provider should check your blood pressure regularly, at least once a year. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, they may recommend that you get checked more often.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

To figure out your blood pressure rate, your health care provider takes blood pressure readings at different times. You need more than 1 reading because blood pressure changes depending on what you are doing and varies during the day. For example, your blood pressure can increase when you are nervous or in a hurry.

If your blood pressure is high while with your health care provider but normal otherwise, you may just be nervous. This effect is common. Even people already being treated for high blood pressure go through this.

What matters is what happens to your blood pressure outside your health care provider’s office. If you have high blood pressure, you should use a home blood pressure monitor. Ask your health care provider how to use the monitor correctly.

Measuring blood pressure

Normal blood pressure should be:

  • 140/90 mmHg or lower for most people
  • 135/85 mmHg or lower if you measure your blood pressure at home
    • the result should be lower because you are not usually under stress or nervous at home
  • less than 130/80 mmHg for people who have diabetes

The top number is blood pressure when the heart beats (meaning, when it contracts). This is also called systolic blood pressure. This is usually the term used on the results from public blood pressure machines in pharmacies.  

The bottom number is blood pressure when the heart relaxes. This is called diastolic blood pressure, and is also displayed on the results from a public machine.

The top number, bottom number or both numbers could indicate that you have high blood pressure.

Blood pressure levels lower than 120/80 mmHg are considered normal. There is no specific number at which blood pressure is considered too low, unless you experience signs and symptoms such as:

  • nausea
  • fainting
  • lack of concentration
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • dehydration or unusual thirst

If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis, you should consult your health care provider.

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