Most people who have high blood pressure have no idea that they have it. Here’s the bottom line on the silent symptoms of high blood pressure.

Bottom Line/HEALTH: What are the symptoms, if any, of high blood pressure?
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum: You know, about six million Americans are living with high blood pressure, and it’s called the silent killer because you can’t exactly tell that you have it—sometimes there are no symptoms. On the other hand, some people can develop symptoms like headaches, blurring of vision, shortness of breath, even chest pain. So if you have any of these symptoms, please go see your doctor, because the silent killer is actually just that. It could be a killer.
Bottom Line: Aside from obvious things like excess weight or obesity, what are the primary risk factors for high blood pressure?
Dr. Steinbaum: When it’s not due to family history or a hereditary problem or an issue with the kidneys, you have to look at the lifestyle issues again. Alcohol—excess of alcohol or binge drinking can lead to high blood pressure. Also look at your diet. Too much salt—it is actually a risk factor for hypertension. And if you’re not exercising—sedentary lifestyle—or if you have diabetes. All of the things that lead to the stiffening of the arteries are the risk factors. Your diet, your exercise, even stress. Diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol…all of these things can lead to high blood pressure.
Bottom Line: Is high blood pressure treatable without medication? You mentioned a lot of lifestyle factors.
Dr. Steinbaum: If it’s not due to a primary issue, as I mentioned—like the kidney or an adrenal issue—then it’s truly about lifestyle. It is truly about the choices you make with diet and exercise and how you live your life. I would say watch your alcohol, don’t smoke and really watch what you eat, how you move, and how you choose to live.
 

The bottom line on blood pressure is that unless you’re dealing with a specific medical condition like the ones Dr. Steinbaum mentioned, most of the interventions that are going to be the most helpful in lowering your blood pressure are lifestyle related—nutrition, exercise and potentially a medication if called for—so check with your doctor and see what will work best for you.