Blood pressure is the force of blood flowing through your arteries.
When a person’s blood pressure reading is consistently higher than normal, they may be diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertension is a common health condition among adults, and some hypertensive patients report feeling unusually tired.
If you’ve experienced this, you may have wondered whether high blood pressure is the cause of your fatigue.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number is the diastolic blood pressure, and it measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. High blood pressure refers to a systolic blood pressure reading of 130mmHg and above, and diastolic blood reading at 80mmHg and above.
If your blood pressure is consistently above normal over several checks on different days, your doctor or primary care provider might diagnose you with hypertension.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Although there isn’t one specific cause of high blood pressure, the following factors can lead to hypertension:
- Older age
- Not exercising enough
- A diet high in salt
- High blood cholesterol
- Other chronic illnesses like diabetes and kidney problems
- Family history
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Most people with high blood pressure do not show any signs or symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is by regularly measuring your blood pressure.
A sustained blood pressure reading of 130/80mmHg on several different days indicates high blood pressure.
Why High Blood Pressure Can Make You Feel Tired
If you’ve had hypertension for a while, you may have noticed that you sometimes feel tired after little or no exertion. When left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to some serious medical complications, including those that make you feel tired easily. Let’s take a look at some of these complications that might be causing your fatigue.
Coronary Artery Disease
The coronary arteries are major arteries that supply the heart with blood, nutrients, and oxygen. People with hypertension are at risk of developing coronary artery disease. Hypertension can cause arteries to thicken and narrow, making blood flow difficult.
It can also lead to the formation of plaques. Plaques are fatty, waxy substances that clog the arteries. They are made of cholesterol, excess fat, and other materials that enter the arteries from the bloodstream.
They also cause the arteries to become narrower, reducing blood flow.
Symptoms of coronary artery disease include:
Peripheral Arterial Disease
High blood pressure can lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a disorder that occurs in the arteries of the limbs. Studies show that 33-55% of patients with PAD also have hypertension.
PAD is caused by the build-up of plaque in these arteries, causing them to become narrowed and limiting blood flow. When arteries get blocked by plaque, blood can’t flow through the arteries to nourish other tissues. This leads to tissue injury and in some cases, tissue death.
Peripheral arterial disease can cause fatigue. People with this condition experience numbness in their lower legs or feet, and pain in their calves while walking. They often report that the leg pain stops when they rest.
Hypertension causes constriction or narrowing of the blood vessels in the kidneys, leading to reduced blood flow and damage to kidney filters. The damage to blood vessels makes it hard for your kidneys to filter blood and remove waste.
This leads to kidney disease and the build-up of impurities and toxins in the blood. This condition can also cause people to feel weak and tired. People with serious kidney damage may go into renal (kidney) failure and end-stage renal disease if both kidneys stop working.
If this happens, they’ll need dialysis (the use of machines to clean the blood as kidneys would do) in the short term, and a kidney transplant long term.
Enlarged Heart and Heart Failure
High blood pressure puts you at risk of developing an enlarged heart. The heart is a muscle, and it works harder to deliver blood to the rest of your body when you have high blood pressure. This extra effort causes the heart to bulk up, much like the muscles of your arms grow bigger after regular workout sessions.
An enlarged heart does not pump blood as effectively as normal, a problem that can cause complications like stroke and heart failure. Most people may not know they have an enlarged heart, since they may show no symptoms.
Others may experience the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Swelling in the legs and feet
How Fatigue Can Contribute to High Blood Pressure
Feeling fatigued and not getting enough rest can lead to high blood pressure, especially when you’re stressed. Let’s look at some common causes of fatigue that can affect your blood pressure.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is the body’s way of recharging. Most adults need seven or more hours of sleep each night, and many people report not getting the recommended amount of sleep.
Lack of adequate sleep puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, not getting enough sleep regularly may worsen things and put you at risk for several heart conditions. You may also experience mood changes and problems with your memory.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a respiratory disorder that causes an intermittent complete or partial collapse of the upper airway during sleep. The collapse of the airways makes it hard to breathe, as breathing is repeatedly cut off throughout the night.
This can be very disruptive to sleep. OSA can occur in both adults and children, although it is more common in adult men and postmenopausal women. This common sleep disorder reduces the amount of sleep you get, which in turn disrupts your normal body function and can lead to high blood pressure.
How to Prevent Fatigue From High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure report feeling fatigued, especially those taking high blood pressure medications.
Here are some ways to prevent fatigue from high blood pressure:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight puts extra pressure on your heart, making it work harder. It also makes you more susceptible to sleep apnea, meaning you’re more likely to get insufficient sleep and feel exhausted. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you reduce fatigue.
- Exercise: Exercise is good for your heart. Regular exercise can boost your energy levels. If you’re new to exercising, it is wise to consult with your health care provider about what levels of exercise are safe for you.
- Talk to your health care provider about your diet: Your diet plays a significant role in lowering your blood pressure. Reduce salt intake if possible, because the sodium in salt can increase your blood pressure. Try out diets high in potassium and fiber including fruits, vegetables, and beans. They can help reduce the negative effects of high salt intake on your blood pressure.
How is High Blood Pressure Treated?
Lifestyles changes can help manage high blood pressure.
Your provider may recommend that you:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat less salt
- Limit alcohol intake
If these don’t help, your health care provider may prescribe anti-hypertensive medication. The medication prescribed will depend on your blood pressure, overall health, and whether you’re taking any other medications. Sometimes, your provider may combine two or more drugs for better results.
Here are some commonly prescribed first-line blood pressure medications:
- Diuretics (water pills): These pills remove excess sodium and water from your body by making you urinate more frequently. Diuretics may be used alone or along with other high blood pressure medications. Examples include hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix) and Furosemide (Lasix).
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors): The body uses the angiotensin II hormone to control blood pressure. When ACE inhibitors block this hormone, blood vessels constrict less, leading to a reduction in blood pressure. Examples are lisinopril (Zestril), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Kadril).
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): These medications block the hormone angiotensin II from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. This helps to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples are valsartan (Diovan) and losartan (Cozaar).
- Calcium channel blockers: Calcium ions cause vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels. Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscles of your heart and your blood vessels, keeping the vessels relaxed and your blood pressure lower. Examples are amlodipine (Norvasc), nifedipine (Procardia), diltiazem (Cardizem CD).
Those pregnant or breastfeeding should seek medical advice before taking these medications.If you feel any side effects while on these medications, talk to your health care provider. They may try a different medication or change your dose.
Tips for Naturally Lowering Blood Pressure
To lower your blood pressure naturally:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Reduce sodium intake
- Reduce your stress
- Eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
How K Health Can Help
K Health offers affordable and convenient access to highly qualified doctors to treat and manage high blood pressure, as long as you are not having a hypertensive crisis.
You can meet with your K Health doctor from the comfort of your own home via the K Health app, all while knowing that you’re getting individualized and expert care.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Hypertensive Heart Disease (2021)
Fatigue in Individuals with End Stage Renal Disease (2019)
High blood pressure: Overview (2019)
Hypertension and coronary artery disease: epidemiology, physiology, effects of treatment, and recommendations : A joint scientific statement from the Austrian Society of Cardiology and the Austrian Society of Hypertension (2016)
Hypertension and kidney disease: a deadly connection (2008)
Hypertension in peripheral arterial disease (2004)