Why can some people have uncontrolled high blood pressure for so long without any problems?
Can it ever NOT harm the body (e.g., the person is fit and healthy otherwise in that they don’t smoke, aren’t overweight, do exercise)?
Is high blood pressure (hypertension) one of those medical conditions that – though it can be objectively measured – doesn’t necessarily harm the patient?
Well sure, in its early stages, if one hasn’t had it for too long, there may not be any damage.
But the word “yet” needs to come after “damage” if the hypertension is allowed to continue. And this is true even if it’s only mildly high.
High Blood Pressure: Always a Threat
This stealth disease can stay “silent” for decades — like a snake poised silently behind a rock – and then without warning leap out and strike.
The sudden unexpected strike is a stroke – a blood clot in a blood vessel in the brain.
Hypertension is a major risk factor. But up to that point, the patient may have “felt fine” and even regularly gone on hikes, camping, sailing, traveling.
“Unfortunately, for most people high blood pressure is asymptomatic, so they don’t even realize they have it until they develop the secondary symptoms — heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and so on,” explains Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore; Diplomate, American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.
“So it’s not that they aren’t having problems — it’s just they don’t know about them.
“If they were to have an evaluation with lab tests and possibly EKGs and X-rays, the problems would show up.”
For example, an EKG can indicate clogged coronary arteries, and an X-ray can reveal a misshapen heart from weak pumping ability.
“Additionally, it isn’t a surprise for an apparently healthy person to have high blood pressure if they had a strong family history of HBP or had some other hidden health condition that may be asymptomatic (such as renal disease — for example polycystic kidneys).”
In short, just because you “feel fine” or aren’t overtly sick doesn’t mean that you ARE fine.
Furthermore, the circumstances under which you feel fine need to be considered.
Nearly everyone feels pretty decent sitting in their favorite chair. But how do you feel when it’s time to carry something up a flight of stairs?
If you haven’t been seeing a doctor for regular checkups, it’s time to start. Your blood pressure could be sky-high for all you know.
Though a home blood pressure device can give an accurate reading when used properly, it’s always a good idea to get a more official reading from your doctor’s office.
High blood pressure, under no circumstances, can be a harmless condition.
Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.