Hypertension – The Silent Killer

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Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure

Hypertension is the medical term for “high blood pressure”, its a situation whereby your blood pressure is high. It is a very common medical problem and a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, and chronic kidney disease around the world today. Evidence shows that more than 60% of patient in between the  age of 35 -60 who presented at hospitals in Nigeria are hypertensive.

Hypertension is often called “the silent killer” because most people with hypertension only develop symptoms when their condition progresses enough to cause damage to the inner walls of their arteries.

When it comes to treating hypertension, the good news is that there are a vast number of prescription medications available—and guidelines have been developed to help medical practitioners  quickly find an effective and well-tolerated treatment regimen for almost anyone with this condition.


Symptoms of Hypertension

Hypertension does not usually cause any noticeable symptoms. When it does, you might experience shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and nosebleeds, which could indicate that your blood pressure is high.  Complications such as stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure can occur if long-term hypertension is not adequately treated. A hypertensive emergency, which is an uncommon and dangerous event, may cause blurry vision, anxiety, nausea and chest pain.


Frequent Symptoms of hypertension

Overall, the vast majority of people who have hypertension, which is described as chronically high blood pressure (>130 mm Hg or diastolic pressure >80 mm Hg), do not experience any symptoms of the condition. It is usually diagnosed in the doctor’s office with a simple blood pressure measurement using a blood pressure cuff.

Symptoms that do occur, if present, may indicate temporary fluctuations or elevations in blood pressure, and can be related to the timing of medication doses. Generally, the symptoms of hypertension can happen at any time, do not last for long, and may recur. They include:

  • Shortness of breath: Hypertension can cause shortness of breath as a result of the effect on the heart and lung function. Shortness of breath is more noticeable with physical exertion or exercise.
  • Nosebleed: You may be more prone to nosebleeds if you have hypertension, although, in general, nosebleeds are not a classic sign of high blood pressure.
  • Recurrent headaches: Headaches are fairly common among people with or without hypertension. Some people with hypertension notice changes or worsening of headaches when medications are skipped or when the blood pressure becomes higher than usual. Headaches associated with hypertension can be mild, moderate, or severe and can be of a throbbing nature.
  • Dizziness: People with hypertension may notice dizziness in relation to medication doses and blood pressure fluctuations.

Rare Symptoms of hypertension

Extremely high blood pressure that occurs suddenly is more likely to produce noticeable symptoms than chronic hypertension. However, it is important to know that even very high blood pressure may not produce symptoms.

Severe high blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure of >180 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure of >120 mm Hg. People with severe high blood pressure can develop symptoms quickly, including:

  • Blurry vision or other vision disturbances: Blurred vision and vision changes are warning signs that you could be at risk of a serious health problem, such as a stroke or a heart attack.
  • Headaches: Headaches associated with very high blood pressure tend to be throbbing in nature and can develop rapidly.
  • Dizziness: The dizziness of very high blood pressure is described as vertigo (a sensation that the room is spinning).
  • Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite: Nausea associated with severe hypertension can develop suddenly and may be associated with dizziness.

A type of high blood pressure without serious symptoms is called hypertensive urgency.

Hypertensive urgency is defined as a systolic blood pressure of >180 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure of >120 mm Hg. This blood pressure is considered high enough to put you at serious risk of sudden, life-threatening events.

In situations of hypertensive urgency, there is no organ failure or other immediately critical conditions, but these conditions could quickly develop if the blood pressure isn’t quickly brought under control.


Untreated hypertension causes serious complications, including organ damage. Less commonly, a condition called hypertensive emergency, which may also be called hypertensive crisis or malignant hypertension can occur.

Hypertensive Emergency

A hypertensive emergency, unlike the similar sounding hypertensive urgency, is characterized by serious, life-threatening complications. A hypertensive emergency means that the blood pressure is >180 mm Hg or the diastolic pressure is >120 mm Hg, and that end-organ damage is occurring. Signs and symptoms can include shortness of breath, anxiety, chest pain, irregular heart rate, confusion, or fainting.

Aneurysm Rupture

An aneurysm, which is a bulge in the wall of an artery, can form due to a number of causes. Aneurysms can occur in the aorta, brain, and kidneys. Hypertension contributes to aneurysm formation, and sudden elevations of blood pressure can increase the risk of an aneurysm rupture—a serious event that can be fatal.9

Vascular Disease

Hypertension increases the risk of vascular disease, characterized by atherosclerosis (hardening and stiffening of the blood vessels) and narrowing of the arteries. Vascular disease can involve the blood vessels in the legs, heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes, causing a range of disabling or life-threatening symptoms.


Heart Disease

Hypertension contributes to the development and worsening of coronary artery disease, heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias.

Kidney Failure

Hypertension can affect the kidneys, as their blood vessels become less able to function effectively; permanent damage is possible.

Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease can develop as a consequence of heart disease, manifesting as shortness of breath with exertion.

When to See a Doctor

It is important to go to your regular check-ups with your doctor. Hypertension is a common condition and, if caught, can be treated with medication to prevent complications.

However, if you experience any of the symptoms of hypertension, such as frequent headaches, recurrent dizziness, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, don’t wait—speak to your doctor immediately.

Hypertension requires regular visits with your doctor to monitor your progress. If you are already on blood pressure medication and experience any related side effects, contact your doctor to see if your regimen needs to be adjusted.


When to Go to the Hospital

A hypertensive emergency requires immediate emergency medical care.

The symptoms of a hypertensive emergency include:
  • Severe headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe dizziness or feeling faint
  • Vision changes
  • Weakness, numbness, tingling in the arms, legs, or face on one of both sides
  • Trouble speaking or understanding words
  • Confusion or behavioral changes

Do not attempt to lower extremely elevated blood pressure in yourself or someone else.11 While the goal is to reduce blood pressure before additional complications develop, blood pressure should be reduced over the course of hours to days, depending on severity. It is important not to lower blood pressure too quickly, because rapid blood pressure reductions can cut off the supply of blood to the brain, leading to brain damage or death.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most common symptoms of hypertension?

Hypertension—sometimes called the “silent killer”—often doesn’t create any symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to have regular blood pressure checks at your doctor’s office. That said, short-windedness (the temporary inability to breathe-especially with physical activity), dizziness, headaches, or nosebleeds could be signs of high blood pressure.

How can someone lower his blood pressure quickly?

Exercise and eating well are great places to start when you’re trying to lower your blood pressure. Medication prescribed by your doctor can also work to quickly lower blood pressure. If you’re experiencing stress or other strong emotions, meditation, taking a walk outside in nature, and other self-soothing techniques can be great ways to improve your mood—and your health.

What will happens if hypertension is left untreated?

Over time, untreated high blood pressure can lead to more serious conditions, including damage to the heart, kidneys, and other organs. High blood pressure can also become life-threatening if an aneurysm, stroke, heart attack, or other high-risk complications occur.


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64 thoughts on “Hypertension – The Silent Killer

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