Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure or force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels. When you have high blood pressure (hypertension), it means there is too much pressure on the walls of your blood vessels in your body. High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because you may not be aware of any problems, but the damage is still happening in your body. In this article, we’ll be discussing the symptoms you might notice and some treatments that you can take if you have symptoms of high blood pressure.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your provider measure it. Know your numbers so you can make changes that help prevent or limit damages.
In rare and severe cases, high blood pressure can cause symptoms such as:
- Sleeping problems
A small number of people with high blood pressure may experience headaches, shortness of breath, or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms are not specific and usually appear when high blood pressure reaches a severe or life-threatening stage.
Treatment and prevention
Lifestyle changes can help control and control high blood pressure. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, including:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet with less salt
- Get regular physical activity
- If you are overweight or obese, maintain a healthy weight or lose weight
- Limit drinking
But sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough. If diet and exercise don’t help, your doctor may recommend medication to lower blood pressure.
Types of medications
The type of medication your doctor prescribes for high blood pressure depends on your blood pressure measurements and your overall health. Two or more blood pressure medications are usually more effective than one.
Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, are medicines that help the kidneys remove sodium and water from the body. These drugs are often the first drugs tried to treat high blood pressure.
There are different classes of diuretics, including thiazides, loops, and potassium-sparing agents. Which one your doctor recommends depends on your blood pressure measurements and other medical conditions, such as kidney disease or heart failure. Diuretics commonly used to treat blood pressure include chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), and others.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
These drugs—such as lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), benazepril (Lotensin), captopril, and others—help relax blood vessels by preventing the formation of natural chemicals that narrow blood vessels.
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
These drugs relax blood vessels by blocking the action of natural chemicals that narrow blood vessels instead of forming. ARBs include candesartan (Atacand), losartan (Cozaar), and others.
Calcium channel blockers
These drugs—including amlodipine (Norvasc), and diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac, and others), among others—help relax the muscles of the blood vessels. Some slow down your heart rate. In older adults and people of African descent, calcium channel blockers may be more effective than ACE inhibitors alone.
Do not eat or drink grapefruit products while taking calcium channel blockers. Grapefruit can increase blood levels of certain calcium channel blockers, which can be dangerous. If you are concerned about interactions, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.