High blood pressure means the pressure inside the blood vessels (called arteries) is too high. As the heart pumps against this pressure, it must work harder. Over time, this causes the heart muscle to thicken.
Without treatment, symptoms of heart failure may develop. Sometimes, the muscle can be so thick that it does not get enough oxygen. This can cause angina (chest pain).
High blood pressure also leads to thickening of the blood vessel walls. When combined with cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels, the risk of heart attack and stroke increases.
Hypertensive heart disease is the leading cause of illness and death from high blood pressure.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have high blood pressure and develop any symptoms.
Because there are often no symptoms with high blood pressure, people can have the condition without knowing it. Symptoms most often occur after many years of poor blood pressure control. Symptoms may also occur if blood pressure suddenly rises to an extreme level. Diagnosing high blood pressure early can help prevent heart disease, stroke, eye problems, and chronic kidney disease.
The 2007 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines on screening for high blood pressure recommend that all adults be screened:
Every 2 years, if blood pressure was less than 120/80 mmHg at the most recent reading
Once a year if blood pressure was 120 - 139/80 - 89 mmHg
Your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings based on your blood pressure levels and other health conditions.
If your blood pressure is high, you need to lower it and keep it under control.
Do not stop or change high blood pressure medicines without talking to your doctor.
Carefully control diabetes and high cholesterol.
2007 Screening for High Blood Pressure in Adults, Topic Page. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Available at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspshype.htm Accessed June 19, 2014.
Review Date: 5/13/2014 Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.