Why is hypertension called the silent killer?

Holly S. Andersen, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is called the “silent killer” because very, very few people know when their blood pressure goes up. When I tell somebody that they have high blood pressure for the first time they say, “I don’t understand. I’ve had low blood pressure my whole life.” Well, you do until you don’t. Many women and men get diagnosed with high blood pressure in their 50s. But, there are some people who drink a lot of alcohol in their 20s and 30s and their blood pressure is quite high. This tends to run in families. They don’t even know they have high blood pressure because they never go to a doctor until they are 30 or 40. They might have had untreated high blood pressure for 10 years. And high blood pressure is very treatable. 
Joseph H. Henderson, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Hypertension is called the silent killer because most patients with high blood pressure have no symptoms to alert them to the elevated pressure. But over time, high blood pressure increases the risk of serious problems such as stroke, congestive heart failure, heart attack, and kidney failure.

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High blood pressure is often called the silent killer because hypertension makes your heart work much harder than it should. The entire time high blood pressure is working against your heart and arteries, you are completely unaware that it is causing so much damage. Not only does elevated or high blood pressure cause hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and other serious problems, but hypertension can result in a brain hemorrhage (stroke). Hypertension also causes kidney disease, where the kidneys function poorly. In some cases, hypertension can result in blindness and amputation of the limbs.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Hypertension is called the silent killer because a third of Americans have it and do not know it.  There are no symptoms. The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked.  It is really easy. If hypertension is left untreated it can result in heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.  

If you do not know your blood pressure it is time to find out.  If your blood pressure is high (140/90 or greater) then it is important that you see your doctor for treatment.  If you are treated then your risk for serious illness will decrease.

Ozgen Dogan
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Some people aren't aware that they have high blood pressure because there really are no symptoms. That's why it's called the silent killer. For example, despite what many people believe, headache is not a sign of high blood pressure. That's why it's very important to have an annual checkup even if you don't have any complaints.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.