Symptoms of Prehypertension

Prehypertension is when your blood pressure is measured at above-normal levels but is below hypertension, or high blood pressure. It is a warning sign that you are at risk of developing high blood pressure.

A blood pressure reading includes systolic pressure and diastolic pressure levels. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines normal blood pressure as a reading below 120/80 mm Hg for adults. With high blood pressure, the systolic pressure is 130 or higher, or diastolic pressure is 80 or higher.

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Blood pressure readings for prehypertension occur between normal and high blood pressure levels. This stage, which the AHA defines as "elevated" blood pressure, includes systolic readings between 120-129 and diastolic levels less than 80.

Prehypertension often occurs without symptoms. For some people, symptoms like dizziness or nosebleeds may occur as blood pressure levels become higher.

Learning that you have prehypertension can help you prevent high blood pressure. This article explains its symptoms, complications, and when to seek treatment.

A Silent Condition

You can have prehypertension and not know it. The condition often occurs without symptoms, so it can exist and even progress to hypertension before you're aware of it.

Most people learn they have prehypertension when they have their blood pressure taken by a healthcare provider. Since blood pressure varies during the day, a diagnosis of prehypertension requires having elevated blood pressure levels on more than one occasion.

Even if your condition worsens to qualify as hypertension, you may not have symptoms. Like prehypertension, hypertension is regarded as a "silent killer," because it can cause damage before it's discovered.

When Symptoms Occur

If you experience symptoms, it may indicate that your blood pressure is well above elevated levels. The following symptoms may be a sign that your blood pressure is dangerously high:

Rare Symptoms

The following symptoms can be indirectly linked to prehypertension that has progressed to severe levels. While high blood pressure may not be the cause of these symptoms, these symptoms occur more often in people who have this condition:

The Importance of Blood Pressure Monitoring

The blood pressure reading that your healthcare provider takes during your annual physical can help determine your risk of getting hypertension. It is also the best way to identify and diagnose prehypertension before it progresses to hypertension.


Complications from prehypertension occur over time. Without making lifestyle changes to improve prehypertension, you increase the likelihood that your condition will progress to hypertension.

Living with uncontrolled prehypertension can damage your blood vessels and lead to problems that affect other organs and bodily systems. The effect can cause life-altering health conditions.

The complications of allowing prehypertension to remain untreated and progress to hypertension include:

Children and Adolescents

In addition to these serious health conditions, children and adolescents diagnosed with prehypertension may show evidence of damage to major body organs. Having prehypertension at a young age also gives patients a higher risk of hypertension as adults.


Pregnant people may experience unique complications as a result of untreated prehypertension. In pregnancy, prehypertension is linked with a higher risk of stillbirth and babies born smaller than their gestational age.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Getting regular blood pressure checks by a healthcare provider is the best way to monitor your risk of hypertension and identify prehypertension before you suffer long-term damage. Without monitoring, you can have prehypertension and not know it and not have the chance to reverse the condition with lifestyle modifications.

Living with untreated prehypertension increases your risk of having hypertensive crises. The following conditions require urgent medical attention to avoid organ damage and failure.

Hypertensive Emergency

A hypertensive emergency requires immediate medical treatment. Call 911 if your blood pressure reading is 180/120 mm Hg and you have any of the following symptoms:

Hypertensive Urgency

Hypertensive urgency is a condition in which your blood pressure reaches 180/120 mm Hg without other symptoms. If this occurs, the AHA advises that you wait five minutes and recheck your blood pressure levels. The condition rarely requires hospitalization, though you should contact your healthcare provider for further instructions.


Prehypertension occurs when your blood pressure levels are high but not high enough to qualify as high blood pressure. Learning you have prehypertension serves as a warning that you have an increased risk of hypertension. It gives you a chance to make lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of high blood pressure.

Prehypertension often occurs without symptoms. Getting a blood pressure reading from a healthcare provider is the only way to learn if you have this condition. While symptoms may occur, they often aren't unique to this issue. This makes it hard to link them to prehypertension.

In many cases, symptoms occur after you progress from prehypertension to high blood pressure. At this point, you may have reached severe levels when damage to organs and bodily systems is more likely.

A Word From Verywell

Being diagnosed with prehypertension is a chance to prevent health problems that can occur if your condition progresses to hypertension. Living with hypertension can require long-term treatment and increase your risk of organ damage.

With proper lifestyle modifications, you may be able to prevent your condition from advancing to hypertension. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best ways to reverse prehypertension and reduce your risk of hypertension.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I reverse prehypertension?

    While everyone's body reacts differently, many people can reverse prehypertension by making the following lifestyle modifications:

    • Reduce salt intake to less than 5 grams daily
    • Eat more fruit and vegetables
    • Exercise daily
    • Avoid tobacco use
    • Reduce stress
    • Reduce alcohol consumption
    • Limit foods high in saturated fats and trans fats in your diet
  • What causes prehypertension?

    Prehypertension often occurs without a known cause. You have a higher risk of developing prehypertension if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

    • Age
    • Family history of hypertension
    • Obesity
    • Use of tobacco, alcohol, and/or recreational drugs
    • Certain health conditions, such as diabetes
    • Anxiety and stress
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • High-sodium diet
  • How is prehypertension diagnosed?

    Most people don't have symptoms with prehypertension. Prehypertension is diagnosed by having elevated blood pressure levels. Getting regular blood pressure checks by a healthcare provider is the only way to get a diagnosis of prehypertension.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.