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High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 10:38

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Q: Can blood pressure be too low?

A: Up to a certain point, the lower the blood pressure, the better. But an abnormally low blood pressure, called hypotension can contribute to symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, and fainting. You should report any such symptoms to your doctor.

Q: If I do not feel any symptoms, is there still a problem?

A: Most people with high blood pressure do not experience any symptoms. The presence of symptoms, such as headache or blurry vision, usually indicates severe or long-standing high blood pressure. However, over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure causes significant damage to important organs including the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes. In a number of cases, this damage can lead to death. This is why high blood pressure is sometimes referred to as "the silent killer."

Q: If I exercise vigorously, like jogging, won't that be dangerous because my heart rate will speed up?

A: It is true that your heart rate will speed up when you exercise, causing your blood pressure to rise temporarily. But normally your body compensates by causing blood vessels to relax. With regular exercise, your heart will pump blood more efficiently. However, you should always check with your doctor before exercising. Some individuals (such as those with heart disease) may need to take special precautions, including a thorough medical evaluation, before beginning an exercise program. The hearts of some individuals are also more susceptible to increased stress associated with exercising.

Q: If I take medication for my high blood pressure, and the pressure falls to normal, why do I have to keep taking the medication?

A: In some cases, high blood pressure is caused by another condition. This type of hypertension is referred to as secondary hypertension. Treating the underlying condition can sometimes cure secondary hypertension. But 90 to 95 percent of people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension, for which there is no single identifiable cause. So if you stop taking your medication after your blood pressure falls to normal levels, it's likely that your blood pressure will increase again. Smooth, persistent control of blood pressure is a goal of treating hypertension, so discontinuing your medication would be undesirable. Also, some medications (for example, beta-blockers) can cause sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure if you suddenly stop taking them. Therefore, you should never discontinue taking your medication on your own. This should be a decision made in consultation with your doctor.

Q: If I miss a dose of medication, should I double up the next time I'm due to take it?

A: No. Missing a single dose now and then will probably not have any serious consequences. On the other hand, doubling up on the dose can lead to adverse effects, including blood pressure or heart rate that are too low. If you miss more than a single dose, you should consult your doctor.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)