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If you have a headache that won’t go away or feel unusually anxious, consider yourself one of the lucky ones who received a warning sign. The most dangerous thing about high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is that it often presents with no symptoms.

Most people who report feeling stressed out generally end up having underlying high blood pressure. And if your blood pressure becomes very elevated, you may experience symptoms like blurry vision, headache, heart palpitations, nosebleeds, and shortness of breath. If you notice any of these signs seek immediate care at a local CityMD in your neighborhood.

What is high blood pressure?

“High blood pressure occurs when the blood that pumps against the walls of the blood vessels in our body becomes too forceful,” explains Dhara Shah, DO, a cardiologist at Summit Health. “Over time this can lead to problems because it places added pressure on the heart and makes it work harder to pump blood throughout the body.”

Do you know your numbers?

The most important thing you can do is know what your blood pressure is normally. Scheduling regular checkups with your primary care physician can also help identify potential problems before they start. It is also important to understand what ranges of blood pressure are safe or problematic. The American Heart Association suggests the following guidelines:

  • Optimal BP: Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Elevated: 120-129/less than 80 mmHg
  • Hypertension Stage 1: 130-139/80-89 mmHg
  • Hypertension Stage 2: 140 or higher/90 or higher mmHg
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Higher than 180 and/or higher than 120

Schedule an appointment with your provider if you have concerns about high blood pressure. When blood pressure goes unchecked for a period of time, it can lead to serious health conditions. These may include stroke, heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease or even kidney failure, complications during pregnancy, eye damage, and vascular dementia.

What can you do to prevent hypertension?

Prevention is always the best medicine. Making the following basic lifestyle changes can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range:

  • Eat healthy foods that are low in salt and in fat.
  • Reach and maintain an optimal body weight.
  • Be physically active.
  • Limit alcohol to two or less drinks each day for men, and one or less for women.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Manage stress.

You should also know there are medications or supplements that can cause high blood pressure, such as birth control or NSAIDs. It’s a good idea to check with your provider before taking any over-the-counter dietary supplements.

What medications treat high blood pressure?

When lifestyle and dietary changes alone are not enough to lower blood pressure, Dr. Shah treats her patients with medications taking into consideration any other medical problems that they may have as well as their lifestyle.

There are many medications that can lower blood pressure and it is important to find the one that is right for every person. Some of these treatments include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors – reduce stress on the heart by dilating the blood vessels and reducing blood pressure
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) – work in a similar way to ACE inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers (CCB) – relax the blood vessels
  • Diuretics – also known as water pills, these medications reduce the amount of sodium and fluid in your body and reduce blood pressure

If you experience any symptoms of high blood pressure, make an appointment with your primary care physician or cardiologist at Summit Health. For immediate needs that simply can’t wait, visit your closest CityMD urgent care.