Does High Blood Pressure Cause Fatigue?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force, or pressure, exerted by blood against the walls of arteries while circulating throughout the body. It's natural for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, but if it remains consistently elevated, you may have high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension.
Hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and premature death (1). It is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other serious health problems. While high blood pressure is often asymptomatic, some people with hypertension experience tiredness and fatigue. This article will explore the relationship between high blood pressure and fatigue.
What is High Blood Pressure?
A blood pressure measurement consists of two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure: The higher number or top number represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure: The lower number or bottom number represents the pressure in your arteries when the heart is resting.
The American Heart Association considers a blood pressure reading below 120/80 mm Hg to be within the normal range. Readings above this level are classified into the following categories:
- Elevated blood pressure: Systolic reading between 120-129 mm Hg and a diastolic reading below 80 mm Hg.
- Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic reading between 130-139 mm Hg or a diastolic reading between 80-89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension: Blood pressure reading that shows a systolic measurement of 140 mm Hg or higher and/or a diastolic measurement of 90 mm Hg or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis: Systolic reading over 180 mm Hg and/ or a diastolic reading over 120 mm Hg.
Understanding that blood pressure can fluctuate during the day is essential; thus, one elevated reading does not necessarily mean that you have hypertension. Doctors typically diagnose hypertension by taking multiple blood pressure readings on different occasions.
Is Fatigue a Symptom of High Blood Pressure?
Fatigue may be a symptom of high blood pressure, but it could also be a sign of an existing condition. High blood pressure has several dangerous side effects that can make you tired.
Now, we'll explore how high blood pressure could lead to other health issues, which can cause fatigue and become serious if left untreated.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition where plaque builds up in the coronary arteries causing reduced blood flow to the heart. High blood pressure can damage arteries, making them more prone to plaque buildup. It also increases the heart's workload, leading to a greater demand for oxygen. This increased demand can damage the heart muscle and contribute to the development of CAD.
Apart from fatigue, other signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease include:
- Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Weakness, nausea, or a cold sweat
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the arms or shoulders
- Chest pain or tightness (angina)
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
When your blood pressure remains high over time, it can harm your artery walls and increases the probability of developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This condition occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to body parts outside the heart and brain, including the arms, legs, and organs in the abdomen, resulting in blockages or narrowing.
In addition to fatigue, other symptoms of peripheral artery disease can include:
- Pain in the legs with physical activity that usually goes away with rest
- Slow-healing sores or ulcers on your legs or feet
- Decreased or absent pulses in the feet, cold or numb toes
- Tingling or numbness in your lower extremities
- Muscle atrophy or weakness
Chronic Kidney Damage
When your blood pressure is consistently high, it can limit blood flow to your kidneys and damage the tiny blood vessels within them, making it difficult for them to function correctly.
As time goes by, this harm can result in chronic kidney disease, a condition characterized by a gradual decline in your kidneys' ability to remove waste from your blood.
In addition to fatigue, other symptoms of chronic kidney disease can include:
- Poor appetite
- Trouble concentrating
- Swelling in legs, ankles, and hands
- Changes in urination frequency or volume
Left Ventricular Hypertrophy and Heart Failure
Elevated blood pressure can strain your heart, causing it to work harder than normal. Over time, this extra workload can enlarge the heart muscle, a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).
An enlarged heart needs more oxygen to function effectively, but getting enough blood flow to deliver the required oxygen can be challenging. Without proper treatment, this strain on the heart can lead to heart failure, a condition where the heart can't pump enough blood to satisfy the body's demands.
In addition to fatigue, other symptoms of heart failure can include:
- Weight gain with feet, leg, ankle, or stomach swelling
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing when lying down
- Feeling weak or tired
Other Factors that May Lead to Fatigue in Individuals with High Blood Pressure
While fatigue can be a symptom of high blood pressure, several other factors can contribute to feelings of tiredness.
- Prescription medications used to manage high blood pressure can cause fatigue as a side effect.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, and is a recognized risk factor for hypertension, particularly in older adults.
- Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a medical condition characterized by elevated blood pressure in the blood vessels that transport blood from the heart to the lungs. This condition can cause a variety of symptoms, such as fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.
- Getting 5 hours of sleep or less per night can increase the likelihood of developing high blood pressure. In addition, if you already have high blood pressure, poor sleep quality can exacerbate the condition.
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Common Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often referred to as the "silent killer" because there are usually no noticeable symptoms or warning signs. (2) Regularly monitoring your blood pressure is vital, particularly if you have hypertension risk factors like a family history of the condition, being overweight or obese, or leading a sedentary lifestyle. However, there are some symptoms that may indicate that your high blood pressure is becoming more severe or causing complications. These symptoms can include:
- General weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Unexpected headaches
- Performing your usual physical activities is challenging
- Pain in your limbs
If you are experiencing these symptoms, scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible is essential to determine the underlying cause and the appropriate course of treatment. Sometimes, these symptoms may indicate a more severe condition, such as heart disease or kidney damage.
Even if you're not experiencing any symptoms, monitoring your blood pressure regularly and working with your healthcare provider to manage your condition is important. Lifestyle changes, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and reducing your salt intake can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of complications. In some cases, medication may also be necessary to help manage your blood pressure.
How to Help Prevent and Manage High Blood Pressure?
If you want to lower your blood pressure, you should:
- Quit smoking
- Get high-quality sleep
- Minimize alcohol and caffeine intake
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Follow a healthy, balanced, low-salt diet
- Alleviate stress
Ask your doctor whether any of your medications might increase your risk of high blood pressure and how to manage it. Additionally, it is crucial to get your blood pressure regularly checked.
If you are worried about the health of your heart and blood vessels, consider using a supplement for heart health. Healthycell's Heart and Vascular Health supplement is designed to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. For additional tips on how to improve heart health naturally, take a look at 9 Ways to Improve Heart and Cardiovascular Health Naturally with Lifestyle Changes.
Your doctor will consider various factors such as your age, existing medical conditions, and current medications while deciding on a treatment plan for your high blood pressure. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe hypertension medications, which can sometimes cause fatigue as a side effect.
About the Author
Dr. Giampapa is a world-renowned medical doctor, inventor, and surgeon specializing in anti-aging medicine. He recently received a nomination for the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking stem cell research, as well as the Edison Award for the Healthycell nutritional supplement for cell health. He was also awarded the A4M Science & Technology award for his development of the BioMarker Matrix Profile – the first computer program to measure aging.
1. National Institutes of Health