Leg pain – could it be a sign of high-blood pressure?

We all experience aches and pains in our legs from time to time. Whether we’ve been exercising more than usual, or have pulled a muscle, this sort of pain often goes away on its own. But if you regularly experience aches and pains in your legs, or swollen legs and ankles, it could be a sign of high blood pressure.

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How does high blood pressure cause leg pain?

If you have high blood pressure, it means your heart is having to work harder to pump the blood around your body. When blood is being pumped at a higher rate, it can begin to damage the venous system (your veins and arteries), causing small tears. Cholesterol in the blood may start to attach to these tears and this build up can cause the arteries to narrow, restricting circulation.

When circulation is restricted, this can make it even harder for blood to pass through your veins, meaning your heart has to increase its effort. This build-up and restriction of the blood vessels is known as ‘Peripheral Artery Disease’ or PAD, a condition affecting more than 1 in 5 of adults over 75 in Australia1.

If your nerves and muscles aren’t receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need to function correctly, this could cause a range of symptoms including cramping, aching and pain in the calf, leg or buttocks.

What are the other symptoms of high blood pressure?

People suffering from high blood pressure, or ‘hypertension’ may experience a range of other symptoms including:

Dizziness
Chest pain
Visual changes
Blood in the urine
Headaches
Shortness of breath
Nosebleeds
Flushing

If you are experiencing any of these conditions, it’s important to see your GP as soon as possible.

However, many people suffering from high blood pressure may experience no symptoms at all for years or even decades. It is estimated that one in three adults in Australia have high blood pressure, but many are unaware of this. Symptoms are often only apparent when the condition has become severe enough to cause damage to the blood vessels. This means that damage may be occurring without our knowledge.

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

As high blood pressure can be present without symptoms, the only way of knowing if you have the condition is by having your blood pressure measured. Often GPs will do this as part of a routine appointment, or you may be able to ask for this service in your local pharmacy.

If you are concerned, or have any additional risk factors that may make you more susceptible to developing high blood pressure, you may wish to invest in a home blood-pressure monitor to take readings.

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What’s my risk?

Some people are more at risk for high blood pressure than others. For example, if you have a family history of high blood pressure. You are also more likely to develop high blood pressure if you suffer from kidney disease, adrenal or thyroid disorders. Age is also a factor – as you age your arteries become stiffer and have less elasticity. This leads to an increase in blood pressure as the heart works harder to pump the blood to where it’s needed.

You are also more likely to develop high blood pressure as you age, with over 40% of men and women between ages 65-74 suffering from the condition.

But there are other lifestyle factors that can increase your risk too, including:

smoking
Smoking
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Obesity or being overweight
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Sedentary lifestyle
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Excess alcohol consumption
Stress
Stress
salt
Consuming too much salt

If you smoke, or have an unhealthy lifestyle, but don’t suffer from high blood pressure, it’s a good idea to address these issues to reduce your risk of developing the condition in the future.

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When to see a doctor

If you’re worried about high blood pressure or leg pain, it’s advisable to seek medical advice. Your doctor will be able to measure your blood pressure and, if necessary, provide treatment to lower your blood pressure. In addition, if your doctor suspects you are suffering from poor circulation or PAD, they may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Leg symptoms, especially where combined with certain underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes may be an indicator of poor circulation associated with peripheral arterial disease.

Thankfully, if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, the good news is the symptoms can be controlled through medication or lifestyle changes. Those with well-controlled high-blood pressure are far less likely to suffer complications of the condition.

The symptoms of poor circulation caused by PAD can often be improved with medication and lifestyle changes4, and can also be boosted by using complementary therapies such as Revitive Medic Circulation Booster – an electrical stimulation device that has been shown to significantly enhance blood flow in the legs and ankles during use.

High blood pressure isn’t a contraindication to using Revitive. Revitive Circulation Booster is unsuitable if you are fitted with an electronic implanted device such as a heart pacemaker or Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (AICD); you are pregnant; being treated for, or have symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): such as pain, swelling and tenderness, heavy ache, warm or red skin in the leg. 

High blood pressure is a risk factor for poor circulation, a condition also medically diagnosed as peripheral arterial disease, causing symptoms such as leg aches and pain, leg cramps in the calf or thighs while exercising or weakness in the legs. 

High blood pressure can cause pain, aching and cramping in the legs due to insufficient blood flow to the muscles. When blood vessels are damaged from high blood pressure, fatty deposits, called plaque, can build-up causing blood vessels to narrow making it harder for blood to flow around the body. This same build-up of the fatty deposits can also build up in your leg arteries, leading to a lesser known disease called Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).

Warning signs

While your leg pain or cramping may be caused by lifestyle factors, it’s important to seek medical advice to rule out other health conditions. Early diagnosis of high blood pressure or other circulation problems will reduce the risk of long-term damage.

References:

  1. Peripheral artery disease in the lower limbs https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2020/may/peripheral-artery-disease-in-lower-limbs
  2. High blood pressure https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure/contents/high-blood-pressure
  3. High blood pressure supplementary tables https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure/contents/high-blood-pressure
  4. Peripheral vascular disease https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/peripheral-vascular-disease

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