Symptoms and Diagnosis

High blood pressure doesn’t usually have obvious symptoms, so you may not even know you have it until you get your blood pressure checked, perhaps during a routine visit to the doctor. Your doctor can tell you if your blood pressure numbers are a problem, or if additional evaluation is needed.


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Symptoms

High blood pressure doesn't usually cause symptoms. Most people don't know they have it until they go to the doctor for some other reason. Very high blood pressure (such as 180/120 or higher) can cause severe headaches and vision problems.

Diagnosis

How is high blood pressure diagnosed? During a routine visit, your doctor will measure your blood pressure. Your doctor also may ask you to test it again when you are at home. This is because your blood pressure can change throughout the day. Sometimes it’s high only because you are seeing a doctor. This is called white-coat hypertension.

To diagnose high blood pressure, your doctor needs to know if your blood pressure is high throughout the day. You may get an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This is a small device that you wear all the time for a day or two. It records your blood pressure at certain times. Or you may check your blood pressure several times a day with a home blood pressure monitor.

Your doctor also may do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health.

What do your blood pressure numbers mean?

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The first number is the systolic pressure. This is the force of blood on the artery walls as your heart pumps. The second number is the diastolic pressure. This is the force of blood on the artery walls between heartbeats.

It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. Your doctor will give you a goal for your blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) means that the top number stays high, or the bottom number stays high, or both.

©2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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Causes & Risk Factors

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Prevention

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Symptoms & Diagnosis

Complications

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Treatment

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Self-Care & Management

Learn More