Whether you’ve been diagnosed with prehypertension or your health care provider believes you may have high blood pressure, it’s tempting to write it off as “no big deal.” You feel fine, so you must be okay — right? Maybe it’s a little more worrisome than you think.
How do you know if you have high blood pressure?
If you’ve searched online for high blood pressure symptoms — or you’ve asked Dr. Google to tell you whether or not your headache could be an early warning sign of hypertension — you probably haven’t found the answers you’re probably looking for. The problem with high blood pressure is that most people don’t know they have it until one of two things happen: they go to see their doctor and their doctor suspects they might have it, or they have a heart attack or similar event that probably resulted from undiagnosed hypertension. Unfortunately, the only way to diagnose high blood pressure — or even suspect you might have it — is through a visit with your health care provider. High blood pressure can be diagnosed and treated before it causes major health problems. But that does not mean you should wait to get checked out until something goes seriously wrong.
Is prehypertension as bad as high blood pressure?
Technically, no. Your health care provider would diagnose you with prehypertension if your levels fall between 120/80 and 139/89. At this point, your blood pressure is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered “too high.” Still, being diagnosed with prehypertension can almost be seen as a good thing. It means a doctor has caught your elevated blood pressure early enough that it has likely caused less damage to your heart than living a long time with undiagnosed high blood pressure might. Prehypertension still increases your risk of heart disease and makes you more likely to have a heart attack though, just like both stages of hypertension. It’s possible to have heart disease without experiencing dangerously high blood pressure, though hypertension is usually a major contributing risk factor. If you have prehypertension, there’s still a chance you can gain control of your blood pressure before it begins to negatively impact your health.
Is high blood pressure really that big a deal?
Unfortunately, the severity of your hypertension can’t be judged by how you feel. It’s not like a headache, which you can tell has gone away because you don’t feel it anymore. Feeling “fine” doesn’t mean you’re actually fine. So even if it doesn’t “feel” like you need to take it more seriously, you still should. High blood pressure is especially dangerous because people who have it usually don’t present with noticeable symptoms. It’s still dangerous if you’re prescribed treatments for it but don’t follow them for one reason or another. Living with it for years without any kind of treatment increases your risk of heart attack,stroke, and even chronic conditions such as diabetes and dementia. High blood pressure is more than just a number. Paying it no mind could cost you your life.