By Dr Joe
Can high blood pressure make you tired? This is a common question that bothers people with high blood pressure.
The problem with tiredness and fatigue is that they are non-specific symptoms. Tiredness and fatigue can be caused by a huge array of medical and non-medical conditions.
It is therefore not surprising that tiredness can become a diagnostic nightmare for both you and your doctor.
For instance, it is very easy to blame your tiredness on menopause, if you are a woman who is post-menopausal. Of course, menopause may make you feel tired but the problem of feeling exhausted most of the time may well be due to your high blood pressure.
Men may blame constant tiredness on low testosterone which may well be the cause. But when you have high blood pressure, you may be barking at the wrong tree there blaming your testosterone level.
Your doctor being confused as well may well tell you “there’s no magic bullet” to solving the constant tiredness and fatigue. He might suggest you start getting used to it because he too has become helpless.
Sometimes as human beings we have a better ability to deal with situations when we know the reasons why we are having a particular symptom. Not knowing why is just as exhausting as the problem itself.
So, can high blood pressure make you tired?
You already probably know the answer from the forerunner to this but for avoidance of doubt, if you want the answer to the question: can high blood pressure make you tired?
The answer is; yes, high blood pressure can make you tired. Yes, high blood pressure can cause fatigue. Yes, high blood pressure can make you feel exhausted most of the time.
For the most part, people with high blood pressure tend not show any symptoms. Hence, if you are not someone already diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) the finger-pointing exercise will probably be in the wrong direction.
This is particularly so if you are one of those with masked high blood pressure. These are individuals with high blood pressure that is not obvious to their doctor when their blood pressure is measured.
These folks have “normal blood pressure” in front of their doctor; but in actual fact they have high blood pressure in their day to day lives. The exact opposite of ‘white coat hypertension‘. The only way to diagnose these folks is through ambulatory 24-hour blood pressure monitoring.
Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring will reveal the aha moment. High blood pressure diagnosed. Cause of tiredness and fatigue uncovered. Problem solved.
|See also: can alcohol cause high blood pressure|
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?
It will be unusual to talk about the relationship between tiredness and high blood pressure without mentioning the other symptoms of high blood pressure.
As I said earlier on, hypertension (high blood pressure) is usually without symptoms in the vast majority of people with the disease. But one or two symptoms will lead your physician to suspect high blood pressure as the cause of your problem.
Some symptoms of high blood pressure will include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling anxious or keyed-up
- Pale skin colour
- Chest pain
- Tight chest
- Visual difficulties
- Difficulty breathing
- Ringing in the ear
- Problems with concentration
- Buzzing in the ear
How does high blood pressure cause tiredness?
We have already established that lethargy, fatigue, feeling tired all the time, are some of the symptoms of high blood pressure.
In fact, in older folks, the problem of fatigue can be so bad, they find it difficult to have a productive day. That can make for a frustrating experience. But how does high blood pressure cause fatigue?
High blood pressure causes tiredness through a variety of ways.
- The high blood pressure itself
- The high blood pressure medicines can cause tiredness
- Lifestyle issues
High blood pressure condition itself
When you have high blood pressure, it means there’s relative narrowing of your blood vessels. Your blood vessels have stiffer walls. Meaning your blood vessels aren’t very compliant to the rush of blood coming through from the heart.
With this relative narrowing and hardening of your blood vessels, the flow of blood through the vessels is sub-optimal. You need an unimpeded flow of blood through your vessels to bathe your cells.
If the flow of blood is not free, then the supply of oxygen and nutrients will be sub-optimal. This relative deprivation of rich oxygen and nutrients to your tissues inclusive of your muscles will make you feel tired, fatigued and lethargic.
Because sup-optimal supply of nutrients and oxygen means sub-optimal metabolism.
So, it is not unusual for someone with high blood pressure to feel exhausted most of the time.
The high blood pressure medicines can cause tiredness
High blood pressure is one disease where both the disease and the treatment can cause the same symptom(s). How bizarre.
For instance, high blood pressure can cause erectile dysfunction. At the same time, the medications used for the treatment of high blood pressure can cause the same erectile dysfunction. Sad, isn’t it?
The same thing applies to tiredness and fatigue. Just like high blood pressure can make you feel tired, so can the medications used for the treatment of high blood pressure.
One of the commonest complaints from people on high blood pressure medications is feeling tired and having low energy.
This problem of fatigue with high blood pressure medications is particularly so at the start of treatment and when a new medication had just been added to an existing one.
Blood pressure medications are a pain in the backside. Just as they save lives, they can make one’s life miserable as well.
How do blood pressure medications make you feel tired?
Some blood pressure meds like diuretics also called water pills, work by contracting your blood volume. They make you pee more. This reduces what we call the pre-load of the heart. It reduces the amount of ‘fluid work’ the heart has to do.
In doing so, these diuretics like Lasix, Thiazides may unintentionally make you lose electrolytes like potassium. A low potassium in the body is a guaranteed way to feel lethargic all day. Not what you want.
The beta blockers, like Atenolol, Bisoprolol, Propanolol, slow down your heart rate and reduce your heart’s output. This mode of action might not be liked by your body. The net result being; feeling tired all the time.
Centrally acting blood pressure medications like Clonidine, Methyl dopa, depress the central nervous system. With a mode of action like this, it is little wonder if you are taking one of these medications, you feel lethargic all the time. You need your central nervous system to be ‘firing on all cylinders’ for you to have the right energy levels.
So, if you are someone who always wonders why you feel so tired with your BP, your blood pressure medications could be playing havoc with your current low energy problem.
Yes, it’s nice to have your blood pressure under control but this may come at a price. Fatigue.
This is linked with some of the causes of high blood pressure.
Are you overweight? Being overweight does not help your blood pressure control. Even though your hypertension can cause your fatigue, problems related to weight issue can exacerbate your tiredness.
A lot of people overweight especially if obese have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea leads to poor sleep. Poor sleep is neither good for your physical nor your mental health. Poor sleep from sleep apnea will certainly make you tired practically everyday.
Is your diet unhealthy? Eating heavily processed meals may give you the buzz of yummy tasty food but you pay the price by getting tired as this will make your blood pressure control a lot harder.
The same thing applies to your level of physical activity. If you are not physically active, you may gain weight.
But beyond weight gain issues, not getting enough physical activity is a recipe for stubborn pressure which in turn will make you feel tired. Fatigue which may be made worsened further by your blood pressure meds.
So, it is clear as daylight. High blood pressure can make you tired.
But all is not lost. If you are having high blood pressure fatigue issues, have a chat with your physician. Between the two of you, a management plan can be drawn up.
And you could have a resolution. The resolution won’t be swift but it will happen…eventually.