A bit about the causes of hypertension: 80 to 95% of people have primary hypertension. Factors that predispose to this include a genetic predisposition, obesity or weight gain, low levels of physical activity, high dietary salt intake, excess alcohol consumption, stress and a normal increase that occurs with increasing age. The remaining 5 to 10% of people have hypertension secondary to medication or an underlying problem such as a disorder of the kidney, adrenals or hormonal imbalance.
It is important that your blood pressure is taken accurately. While many automated machines are quite accurate, if the blood pressure recording is high these need to be confirmed manually. It is also important that you sit quietly in a quiet, relaxed, comfortable place for 5 minutes before your blood pressure is taken. Any blood pressure over 140/90 is concerning. However a diagnosis of hypertension requires a consistantly raised blood pressure.
Your tiredness and headaches are unlikely to be due direclty to the high blood pressure. Headaches associated with hypertension are usually only seen with very high blood pressure and are experienced at the nape of the neck. More commonly headaches experienced at the same time as mild raised blood pressure are tension headaches related to stress and muscle tension. These feel more like a pressing band around the head with pain at the temples.
Tiredness could be caused by many things including physical, mental and emotional stress. Sleep, the correct exercise and an adequate diet are all important for preventing tiredness. Anaemia could also account for tiredness.
In general, I find that sudden onset of high blood pressure especially like yours where it is mainly the systolic (top number that is high) is related to stress. Why did it happen now and not before? It is possible that you did have high blood pressure during your previous stressful times and didn’t know about it. Our bodies have adaptive mechanisms which maintain a normal blood pressure. These are very effective initially but as stress accumulates they lose the ability to adapt effectively resulting in bouts of high blood pressure. If this continues it can result in persistent high blood pressure.
Managing stress is going to be very important for you. This includes removing stressors are much as possible, improving time management and then increasing your body’s ability to resist stress. Regular 'you time', regular exercise, enough sleep, good diet, a good multivitamin supplement and a multi B supplement are all essential. I have also found that specific relaxed breathing techniques can be very effective in normalising stress related high blood pressure and managing stress.
While it is most likely that your symptoms result from stress, it is important to exclude other options. I suggest that you visit your GP who can take a full history and do any necessary examination and tests to confirm the diagnosis. If stress does seem to be the key factor and you are in Cape Town, you could make an appointment with me and we can work on effect ways to manage stress and lower your blood pressure without medication.