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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure (HBP) itself usually has no signs or symptoms. Rarely, headaches may occur.

You can have HBP for years without knowing it. During this time, the condition can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.

Some people only learn that they have HBP after the damage has caused problems, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure.

Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you're feeling fine. If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your health care team to keep it that way. If your blood pressure is too high, you can take steps to lower it. Lowering your blood pressure will help reduce your risk for related health problems.

Complications of High Blood Pressure

When blood pressure stays high over time, it can damage the body. HBP can cause:

  • The heart to get larger or weaker, which may lead to heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
  • Aneurysms (AN-u-risms) to form in blood vessels. An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of an artery. Common spots for aneurysms are the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the body; the arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines; and the artery leading to the spleen.
  • Blood vessels in the kidneys to narrow. This may cause kidney failure.
  • Arteries throughout the body to narrow in some places, which limits blood flow (especially to the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs). This can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.
  • Blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed. This may lead to vision changes or blindness.
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The Heart Truth®—a national heart disease awareness campaign for women—is sponsored by the NHLBI. The campaign's goal is to give women a personal and urgent wakeup call about their risk for heart disease. 

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August 02, 2012 Last Updated Icon

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