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Warning Signs Your Blood Pressure is "Dangerously High"

Here’s what doctors want you to know about high blood pressure.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

High blood pressure is a serious health condition that, if left uncontrolled, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. "The reason we treat high blood pressure is to prevent stroke, heart attack, kidney damage and heart failure," says preventive cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD. "Bringing blood pressure down below 120/80 mmHg decreases the risk of all these serious, potentially deadly problems. That being said, stroke prevention is the most sensitive to blood pressure reduction." Here are five warning signs your blood pressure is dangerously high, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.



Mother and her adult daughter hugging in cafe

Genetics can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, doctors say. "Genetics play a role," says Dr. Laffin. "If your parents had hypertension early in life, you probably will as well. And it's a polygenic condition, in that, there's not one specific gene in the vast majority of individuals that contributes to hypertension." 



no smoking sign

Smoking can increase high blood pressure, according to doctors. "Elevated blood pressure and tobacco smoking are, respectively, the first and second leading causes of preventable mortality worldwide," says Lawrence J Appel, MD, MPH. "Hence, from both a population perspective and a patient perspective, the joint occurrence of tobacco smoking and elevated blood pressure has enormous health consequences. The effects of cigarette smoking on blood pressure are complex, with evidence that smoking increases blood pressure acutely and increases the risk of renovascular, malignant, and masked hypertension."


Being Overweight Or Obese


Excess body fat is strongly linked to high blood pressure, experts say. "If you're overweight or obese, we know that excess weight increases blood pressure," says Dr. Laffin. "If you're sedentary, so you're not physically active, that also can increase blood pressure. So, we need to be active. When we think about dietary patterns, a heart healthy diet tends to be helpful in these scenarios. And the biggest dietary factor that we think about is excessive consumption of dietary sodium, salt. That definitely increases blood pressure. That's a really important thing that we can get back to and talk to if you want."


Unchecked Stress

overstressing in kitchen

Chronic stress can indirectly lead to high blood pressure, doctors say. "Anxiety and stress themselves don't necessarily elevate blood pressure in the long term," says Dr. Laffin, "but they often have an impact on lifestyle factors, which can absolutely contribute to elevations in blood pressure."


No Warning Signs At All?

Senior female gynecologist checking woman with blood pressure gauge in hospital.

"Hypertension doesn't often cause symptoms, which is why it is known as the 'silent killer.' This gives some people a false sense of security. They don't understand why they need to make an effort to lower their blood pressure," says Dr. Laffin. "Fortunately, patients who adopt these measures usually find their blood pressure drops, and with it, their risk of heart attack and stroke."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan