Nearly half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. A blood pressure exam, usually performed by placing a cuff on the arm and inflating it, can tell if the blood pushing through your body is putting too much pressure on the arteries. You may be diagnosed with high blood pressure if your top number ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or the bottom number ranges from 80 to 89 mm Hg consistently. When this happens, it can cause damage to the artery walls or strain the muscles of the heart, leading to long-term damage to your heart and vascular system.

Are there symptoms of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure often has no symptoms, which is why it’s important to have regular health screenings with your primary care provider. Some individuals with high blood pressure may experience headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds.

What causes high blood pressure?
  • Primary hypertension: When you have high blood pressure and there is no identifiable cause, this is called primary hypertension. A combination of genetic and lifestyle factors may cause primary hypertension. In most individuals, primary hypertension causes the blood pressure to rise gradually over a long period of time.
  • Secondary hypertension: When high blood pressure is caused by another condition or some other issue, it is called secondary hypertension. Some health conditions, such as kidney failure, sleep apnea, congenital heart defects or hormonal imbalances, can cause blood pressure to rise. Certain prescription drugs and illegal drugs can also cause high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, should you see a cardiologist?

For many people, high blood pressure can be managed effectively by their primary care provider. Following the care plan set out by your primary care provider and attending regular follow-up appointments are critical to manage high blood pressure and avoid issues down the road.

Those with high blood pressure may want to consider seeing a cardiologist if they:

  • Have a family history of heart disease.
  • Are 65 or older.
  • Have other chronic conditions that are linked to heart disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, sleep apnea or high cholesterol.
  • Have had a heart attack or stroke before.
  • Cannot decrease their blood pressure through medication management.
What happens if your blood pressure won’t go down, even with lifestyle change and medication?

In rare cases, a person can make lifestyle changes, take their medication as prescribed, and still not maintain a normal blood pressure. When this happens, Georgia Heart Institute offers a specialized program through our Resistant Hypertension Center with unique therapies that can help patients lower their blood pressure.

Screening for heart disease

If you have high blood pressure and you’re concerned about your heart health, there are some easy first steps you can take to determine your heart health risks.

Primary Prevention

Through our Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids, we offer a program designed for people who have heart disease risk factors (like high blood pressure) and want to determine if their heart is healthy. Learn more and schedule an appointment.

General Cardiology

If you have heart disease risk factors and think it’s time to start seeing a cardiologist, Georgia Heart Institute offers comprehensive cardiovascular expertise in 14 locations across northeast Georgia. Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist online.