Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 03, 2024
7 min read

High blood pressure is a problem that affects your arteries. When you have it, your blood is pushing too hard against the walls of your arteries. That makes your heart work too hard to move blood around your body.

One of the most dangerous things about high blood pressure is that you may not know you have it. In fact, nearly one-third of people who have high blood pressure don't know it. That’s because high blood pressure doesn’t have any symptoms unless it’s very severe. The best way to know if your blood pressure is high is through regular checkups. You can also monitor blood pressure at home. This is especially important if you have a close relative who has high blood pressure.

High blood pressure vs. hypertension

Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure.

Doctors classify high blood pressure two ways: primary and secondary. 

Primary high blood pressure, also called essential high blood pressure, doesn't have one specific cause. It develops over time.

Secondary high blood pressure is caused by an underlying condition or something you've consumed. Things that can cause secondary hypertension include: 

  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Blood vessel and heart problems that you're born with
  • Cold medicine, pain relievers, birth control pills, and some other prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines 
  • Kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid problems

For some people, simply having their blood pressure taken in the doctor's office will cause their blood pressure to go up. This is called "white coat hypertension."

Normal blood pressure range

The measurement for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury, sometimes noted as mm HG. Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers.

  • Systolic (the top number listed) measures how much pressure your blood puts on your artery walls when your heart contracts.
  • Dystolic (the bottom number) measures the pressure on your artery walls when your heart's at rest between contractions.

The American Heart Association considers blood pressure to be in the normal range when the numbers are lower than 120/80. 

Elevated blood pressure range

A top number between 120 and 129 and a bottom number below 80 is considered elevated blood pressure.

High blood pressure range

Your blood pressure is considered high if the top number is above 130 or the bottom number is above 80. 

The American Heart Association breaks this down further: 

  • High blood pressure stage 1: top number of 130 to 139 or bottom number of 80 to 89
  • High blood pressure stage 2: top number above 140 or bottom number above 90
  • Hypertensive crisis: Top number above 180 and a bottom number above 120. Call your doctor right away.

Low blood pressure range

Generally speaking, the lower your blood pressure, the better. But it's possible for it to be too low. That's called hypotension. Any reading below 90/60 is considered low. If you don't have other symptoms, this may not be a problem.

Monitoring blood pressure at home

You can buy a device to measure blood pressure at home. The American Heart Association recommends using the type that has a cuff around your bicep, rather than one that attaches to your finger or wrist. These types are considered less accurate.

If you're not sure what device to buy, you can ask your pharmacist or doctor for a recommendation. The American Medical Association has set guidelines for the accuracy of home monitors. You can find a list of the devices that meet those guidelines at Prices for accurate devices start around $55.  Measure your upper arm to make sure you get a cuff that will fit. If you're checking the blood pressure of a child, pregnant woman, or senior, make sure you have a device that's rated accurate for them.

It's a good idea to take your home monitor to a doctor's appointment. Health care professionals can make sure that you're using it right and that your device's readings match their measurements. 

Follow these steps to get an accurate reading on a home monitor:

Prepare. Don't exercise, drink caffeine, or smoke for 30 minutes before you take your blood pressure. Use the bathroom. Give yourself at least 5 minutes of being still before you begin. 

Dress right. Don't take the measurement through your clothes. 

Posture. Sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground. Don't cross your legs. The arm you're using to measure should rest on a flat surface like a table, and your upper arm should be at the same level as your heart. Follow your device's directions to make sure you place the cuff correctly. You also can ask your health care provider to show you during an appointment. 

Timing. Measure your blood pressure at the same time every day. 

Keep records. Some devices will store your readings for you or allow you to upload them to an online portal. You also can track your readings by writing them down or putting them in a spreadsheet. Discuss with your doctor how you're going to share the information with them. 

If your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Severe headaches

  • Nosebleed

  • Fatigue or confusion

  • Vision problems

  • Chest pain

  • A hard time breathing

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Blood in the urine

  • Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears

  • Seizures

People sometimes believe that other symptoms may be related to high blood pressure, but they may not be:

  • Dizziness

  • Nervousness

  • Sweating

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Facial flushing

  • Blood spots in eyes


High blood pressure is called the silent killer because it usually has no symptoms until it reaches a severe stage. The best way to know whether your blood pressure is high is to have it checked regularly. Don't count on symptoms to alert you.  The American Heart Association recommends that adults with normal blood pressure should get their BP checked each year at routine health visits. You may also have it checked at a health fair or other events or places in your community.

The symptoms of severe hypertension are so general that they may look like a number of health conditions. Among those conditions are: 

Dehydration. If your body doesn't have enough fluids, you might get symptoms that are also common with extremely high blood pressure, including nausea, dizziness, fatigue, or confusion. That happens in part because staying hydrated helps  maintain normal blood pressure.

Menopause. Symptoms such as hot flashes and heart palpitations are similar to those that high blood pressure can cause.


If you have any symptoms of severe high blood pressure, see a doctor right away. You could be having a hypertensive crisis that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. You could also have another serious health condition.

When to seek emergency treatment for high blood pressure symptoms

Most of the time, high blood pressure doesn’t cause headaches or nosebleeds. But this can happen in a hypertensive crisis when blood pressure is above 180/120. If your blood pressure is extremely high and you have these symptoms, wait 5 minutes and check your BP again. If your blood pressure is still extremely high, it’s a medical emergency. Call 911.

Untreated hypertension can lead to serious diseases, including stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and eye problems.


High blood pressure – also called hypertension – can lead to serious complications, including stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems. Most people with high blood pressure don't have any symptoms until it's severe. Instead of relying on symptoms to alert you, have your blood pressure checked regularly. You may want to learn how to monitor your blood pressure at home. If you do experience symptoms such as headaches or nosebleeds and your BP reading is above 180/120, you could be having a hypertensive crisis. That's a medical emergency. Wait 5 minutes, double-check your blood pressure reading, and if it's still extremely high, call 911. 

How do you feel when your blood pressure is high?

If you're like most people, you may feel absolutely normal. High blood pressure often has no symptoms. The symptoms that people associate with it -- such as headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, sweating -- are very general and could be from any number of health problems. If you're worried you have high blood pressure, see your doctor and make a plan to monitor it regularly. 

How can I bring my blood pressure down quickly?

The best way to control high blood pressure is to modify your diet, exercise more, and take medication if necessary. However, there are a few ways you can achieve a short-term reduction in your BP: 

Relax. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can slow your heart rate, which lowers your blood pressure. 

Reduce stress. Stress can cause your blood pressure to spike. Simple steps like moving to a quiet place for a few minutes or stretching can help. 

Hit the shower. Warm water can relax you and ease muscle tension. Try a warm bath or shower. 

What can I drink to lower my blood pressure instantly?

There's no evidence that any drink will have an instant effect on your blood pressure. But certain drinks may – over time – improve your hypertension. 

Beet juice. Beets contain nitrates that can help open up your blood vessels. Experts warn the effect might be small. 

Juices high in potassium. In addition to making your blood flow more easily, potassium works with your kidneys to flush sodium out of your body. Lower sodium levels can lead to lower blood pressure. Juices to try include prune, carrot, pomegranate, and orange. Make sure you choose natural juices, and watch out for added sugar. 

Skim milk. The potassium in low-fat dairy may lower blood pressure.

Tea. Compounds in tea can help dilate blood vessels and reduce pressure on your arteries. Hibiscus and chamomile varieties are especially recommended.