6 Signs Of High Blood Pressure You Should Know About

Posted by Women’s Health

There are some things that are hard to commit to memory: your mother-in-law’s birthday, how much milk is left in the fridge, and your last blood pressure reading, to name a few.
But over half of all Americans will experience high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. And considering that high blood pressure essentially doubles your risk of cardiovascular disease, you might want to memorize your next BP reading, says Paul K. Whelton, M.D., lead author of the American College of Cardiology’s guidelines on blood pressure.
High blood pressure means that your blood is pressing against your blood vessels harder than it should. Sounds innocuous, but over time, that can damage the vessel walls and allow plaque buildup to form, blocking arteries and depriving the body of the blood and oxygen it needs, says Amber Khanna, M.D., a cardiologist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.
Now the big question is: How do you know if you have high blood pressure (especially if you have no clue what your numbers look like)? Chances are, you won’t have a clue. While high blood pressure can lead to serious or fatal outcomes like heart attacks and stroke, it’s almost entirely symptomless, earning its name as “the silent killer.” And the claims that high blood pressure symptoms include nosebleeds or a red face or somehow just “feeling” the extra pressure? That’s all completely false, according to the AHA.
Undetected high blood pressure is even riskier for women because many patients and doctors still think of it as a “man’s problem,” Khanna says. “Women are just as likely to have high blood pressure as men, but they’re much less likely to be diagnosed with it and less likely to be treated appropriately for it,” she says.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we’ve asked doctors to share a few things you can look for now to help you understand your own risk of high blood pressure and when you need to seek treatment.
Blood pressure 130/80

Obviously, a high blood pressure reading is like, “duh, you have high blood pressure.” But most women don’t know theirs, for which there’s no excuse, says Adam Splaver, M.D., a cardiologist at Nanohealth Associates in Hollywood, Florida. “Just because you don’t look, doesn’t mean its not there,” he says, adding that unlike an x-ray or blood test, this is one routine medical test you can—and should—do yourself.

Nearly every pharmacy and drug store has a free in-store blood pressure machine or you can purchase your own portable blood pressure monitor for less than $30, Khanna says, noting that both methods are very accurate and similar to what you’d get in a doctor’s office.

Your blood pressure changes constantly to adjust to your activity level, hydration, sleep, food intake and other factors, so to get an accurate picture of your blood pressure you need to get several readings over time. Pick a time when you’re calm and well-hydrated, take your blood pressure, and then repeat the test weekly or monthly under the same conditions, she says. Write down the dates and your numbers and take those with you to your next doctor’s visit.

Any more than three readings in a row over 130/80 warrant a call to your doctor. According to the American College of Cardiology’s blood pressure guidelines, normal is less than 120/80 mm Hg, elevated is 120-129/80, stage 1 hypertension is 130-139/80-89, stage 2 hypertension is at least 140/90, and a hypertensive crisis anything over 180/120.

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