A favorite pastime for many is looking up physical symptoms online to figure out if the internet can provide more insight than your physician. This is one of the great revolutions of the century because, in researching why you might have toe pain, you can narrow it down to things like bunions, arthritis, gout and toe cancer. So that will quell your fear until the doctor’s appointment.

The best and worst part of high blood pressure, or hypertension, is that you’re not likely to experience any symptoms at all. Almost one third of cases exhibit no symptoms. This also means it’s imperative to undergo screening if you think you might be at risk. If you suffer from hypertension without symptoms, it’s like being burned on your hand without any nerve endings. It’s great that you don’t feel pain, but you’re also going to lose your hand and have a prosthetic replacement, slowly but surely turning into Darth Vader.

The most common symptoms of hypertension include:

  • Headache – If pain is present before the kids even get home, you may want to call the doctor
  • Blurred vision – Put on glasses. Remove glasses. If it’s the same, your vision is blurred.
  • Fatigue – Does anyone know what an absence of fatigue feels like though?
  • Confusion – If you don’t understand how Facebook works but you’re over 80, that probably doesn’t count as abnormal confusion. It’s normal.
  • Excessive sweating – If you don’t normally sweat when you put pants on…okay even if you normally sweat when you put pants on, something probably needs to change.

Causes for hypertension are quite mixed. Some are caused by poor lifestyle choices, and others are predestined by the cosmos, a.k.a. genetics.

  • Age and gender – the risk by age is also related to gender. It’s more common for men to have hypertension through middle age years, but after about 65, women are at higher risk.
  • Race and ethnicity – Hypertension is more common amongst people of Black African descent. They’re also at higher risk of other related issues like kidney failure, stroke and heart attacks.
  • Family – You can now add one more to the list of grievances you blame your parents for. If they or other blood related family members have hypertension, you’re more likely to have it as well.
  • Weight – Heavier people, especially obese, require more blood to flow through the body because, well, there’s more body that needs blood. As the volume of blood increases, pressure will also increase.
  • Physical activity – Lack of physical activity is correlated to higher blood pressure, not to mention that being overweight tends to coincide with a lack of physical activity and exercise.
  • Tobacco – drugs aren’t the only whack substance that can hurt you. Tobacco literally ATTACKS the walls of your arteries, making them narrower, so your blood is now flowing through a smaller space, thus at a higher rate.
  • Stress – stress is basically the activation of flight or fight mode, which is when the adrenal glands secrete cortisol. This increases blood pressure so that blood can flow to your muscles in case you either have to punch a robber in the face or run away from a tiger. OR punch a tiger in the face and run away from a robber. Either way, this increases blood flow, so if you’re stressed over time, this becomes chronic.

If high blood pressure is sustained over time, your blood vessels and organs can sustain damage. The good news is that many of the causes are well within your control through lifestyle changes. This isn’t to say you have to sign up for the next Iron Man challenge (although that isn’t a bad idea), but small changes in diet, like cutting out sugar and going for walks every day can mean the difference between visits to the hospital and visits to Copacabana in a flower shirt sipping daiquiris with your friend Marge who had to get away from the kids for a few days. Be a good friend to Marge. Stay in good health.

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