Signs and symptoms of hypertension

A doctor taking a patient's blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on a blood vessel as it flows through it. High blood pressure, also called hypertension describes the condition in which the force of blood flowing through the blood vessels is always high. 

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can affect the heart, as it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to all parts of the body. It can also cause the hardening of arteries, which can lead to stroke.

High blood pressure causes more than 7 million premature deaths every year. It is also responsible for about 4.5% of the global disease burden.

High blood pressure can be genetically inherited. Age and race can also play a role in its development. According to a study, older people are disproportionately affected by hypertension, and the majority of them die from non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and heart diseases.

The fact that hypertension cannot be seen or felt most of the time makes it more dangerous. It is a silent killer. Your blood pressure could be high, and you won’t know. In fact, according to the CDC, about one in five adults with hypertension is unaware of their condition.

This article discusses what high blood pressure means, the blood pressure range chart, warning signs of high blood pressure, and how to lower high blood pressure naturally.

Blood pressure range chart

Your blood pressure is considered normal if you have a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 (120/80 mm Hg).

According to the American Heart Association, there are five blood pressure ranges:

  1. Normal blood pressure
  2. Elevated blood pressure
  3. Hypertension stage 1
  4. Hypertension stage 2
  5. Hypertensive crisis

Below is a blood pressure range chart. Learn what is considered normal, elevated, or high blood pressure using the blood pressure range chart. 

Blood Pressure Range Chart

Blood Pressure Category

Systolic mm Hg (upper number)


Diastolic mm Hg (lower number)


Less than 120


Less than 80




Less than 80

High blood pressure stage 1




High blood pressure stage 2

140 or higher


90 or higher

Hypertensive crisis (needs urgent medical attention)

Higher than 180


Higher than 120

Blood pressure range chart source: American Heart Association

Warning signs of high blood pressure

While hypertension is prevalent among adults, younger people can develop the condition too. This is why it is vital that you constantly check your blood pressure level. Constant monitoring of your blood pressure will help prevent medical emergencies and make you live a healthier life.

Below are some common warning signs and symptoms of blood pressure to always watch out for. 

1. Dizziness

One of the common warning signs of prolonged high blood pressure is sudden dizziness and loss of coordination or balance. 

Dizziness is usually a sign of stroke in people with hypertension. A stroke occurs due to a loss of blood supply to the brain. Sometimes, hypertension medications also cause dizziness

2. Shortness of breath

People with pulmonary hypertension may feel out of breath and have difficulties carrying out their daily activities. Pulmonary hypertension is a type of hypertension that affects the arteries in the lungs and the heart.

Prolonged high blood pressure can cause shortness of breath and fatigue. However, sudden shortness of breath can also be a sign of other severe health complications like heart attacks and strokes.

3. Facial flushing

Facial flushing happens when blood vessels on the face dilate. Causes of facial flushing include cold weather, sun exposure, taking hot drinks and spicy foods, and some skin-care products. 

Also, things that affect blood pressure, such as alcohol consumption, emotional stress, and exercise (which can raise blood pressure temporarily), can cause facial flushing. Note that facial flushing may occur with hypertension, but hypertension is not the cause of facial flushing.

4. Blood spots in the eyes

Image by Alexandre Debieve on Unsplash

This is another warning sign of high blood pressure that must not be ignored. Blood spots occur as red spots in the eye. Such red spots are also called subconjunctival hemorrhage. A subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when tiny blood vessels under the conjunctiva break, causing blood to be trapped.

In the case of hypertension, subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when too much pressure on the tiny arterial walls stretches the arteries' tissues, causing them to damage and break. The arteries and optical nerves of the eyes might get damaged if left untreated. 

5. Vomiting

High blood pressure can cause you to throw up. Vomiting is more common in hypertensive crises. A hypertensive crisis is an extremely high blood pressure that requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms of a hypertensive crisis include bleeding from the nose, confusion, and blurred vision.

6. Anxiety

One of the subtle warning signs of high blood pressure is anxiety. Anxiety is not normal. It is a disorder similar to depression. High blood pressure can cause feelings of anxiety.

Severe anxiety causes symptoms of sweating, breathlessness, heavy breathing, and trembling. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it will help to see a physician for a proper diagnosis. Anxiety itself can cause a spike in blood pressure levels; therefore, it needs to be treated. 

7. Nosebleed

A nosebleed is one of the warning signs of extremely high blood pressure. Nosebleeding does not occur in elevated or stage one hypertension. However, it can happen in the case of a hypertensive crisis.

Other warning signs of high blood pressure to look out for include fatigue, confusion, blood in urine, and trouble sleeping. 

How to lower high blood pressure naturally

Taking antihypertensive medication is one way to lower your blood pressure, but not everybody likes taking drugs all the time. There are ways to control or reduce blood pressure without taking medication, such as:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce caffeine intake
  • Manage or reduce stress
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Reduce sodium intake (don’t eat too much salt)
  • Lose some weight
  • Cut out added sugar and refined foods
  • Quit smoking
  • Practice deep breathing and yoga
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat calcium-rich foods
  • Eat natural supplements like garlic extract and whey protein
  • Take zobo drinks to lower blood pressure

Note that these natural ways of reducing blood pressure don’t have to replace medications. They are only health management techniques.

If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, talk with your doctor first and know if it is okay to stay off medication. Whether you will take antihypertensive medicines will depend on your blood pressure range. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about hypertension symptoms:

Does high blood pressure have symptoms?

High blood pressure usually doesn't cause signs or symptoms, and many people with the condition don't know they have it. But, in some people, hypertension can cause symptoms, especially when the blood pressure has gotten too high.

What are the signs of blood pressure issues?

There are two things that can cause blood pressure issues: high blood pressure and low blood pressure. When high blood pressure causes symptoms, it can manifest as severe headaches, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, and vision problems. Similarly, low blood pressure can cause symptoms like blurry vision, dizziness, confusion, sleepiness, nausea, or vomiting.

What are the signs of high blood pressure when pregnant?

High blood pressure when pregnant is called gestational hypertension, while the severe and acute one is called preeclampsia. High blood pressure when pregnant can cause symptoms like seizures, severe headaches, upper abdominal pain, blurry vision, trouble breathing, and too much protein in urine (proteinuria).


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  3. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021 September 27). Facts about hypertension.  
  4. Shukuri, Arif et al. “Prevalence of old age hypertension and associated factors among older adults in rural Ethiopia.Integrated blood pressure control vol. 12 23-31. 10 Sep. 2019.