Risk Factors for Hypertension

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

High blood pressure has many risk factors, including:

  • Age: The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age, since blood vessels themselves stiffen with age. High blood pressure tends to become more common as men enter middle-age. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause.
  • Race: High blood pressure is especially common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke and heart attack, also are more common in blacks.
  • Family history: High blood pressure tends to run in families, possibly due to similar genetics and/or lifestyle habits.
  • Being overweight or obese: The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As blood volume circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does pressure on your artery walls.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. A higher heart rate causes your heart to work harder with each contraction, with stronger force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases your risk of being overweight. Regular exercise helps to lower blood pressure. Adults should get about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week (gardening, walking briskly, bicycling, or other aerobic exercise). Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended at least two days a week and should work all major muscle groups.
  • Using tobacco: Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage and inflame the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Secondhand smoke also can increase your blood pressure.
  • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet: Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. Some hidden sources of sodium include deli products like cheeses and cold cuts, breads, cereals, crackers, pastries, condiments, sauces, prepared mixes, processed and restaurant foods, and sodas.
  • Too little calcium, magnesium and/or potassium in your diet: All three of these minerals help to regulate and lower blood pressure. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet or retain it, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
  • Too little vitamin D in your diet: It’s uncertain if having too little vitamin D in your diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Vitamin D may influence an enzyme produced by the kidneys which affects blood pressure. Low D levels tend to be found in people who stay indoors and have a sedentary lifestyle, or lack fatty fish in their diet. High D levels tend to occur in those who are active outdoors and have a high intake of fatty fish.
  • High intake of saturated and trans fats from dairy (butter, cream, eggs, gravies, ice cream, mayonnaise, etc.), meat, and partially hydrogenated and/or tropical oil products: Choose lean meats or fish and remove the skin and trim the fat before cooking them, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, egg whites rather than whole eggs, olive oil or canola oil rather than processed salad dressing and mayonnaise. Bake, broil, grill, or steam your foods instead of frying them.
  • Drinking too much alcohol: Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than two drinks a day can raise your blood pressure. American Heart Association Guidelines state that drinks should be limited to no more than two a day for men, and no more than one a day for women. A drink is defined as one 12-ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.
  • Too much caffeine: The American Heart Association suggests limiting caffeine intake to no more than 1 or 2 cups a day.
  • Stress: High levels of stress can cause a temporary, but significant, increase in blood pressure. Trying to relax by eating more, using tobacco, or drinking alcohol, may increase problems with high blood pressure.
  • Certain chronic conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea.
  • Several medicines can cause blood pressure to rise, including cold and flu medicines containing decongestants, NSAID pain relievers, steroids, diet pills, birth control pills, and some antidepressants: If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about what medicines and supplements you are taking that may affect blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy may sometimes contribute to high blood pressure: Gestational hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that occurs in the second half of pregnancy. Without treatment, it may lead to a serious condition called preeclampsia that endangers both the mother and baby. The condition can limit blood and oxygen flow to the baby and affect the mother’s kidneys and brain. After the baby is born, the mother’s blood pressure usually normalizes.

Although high blood pressure is most common in adults, children may also be at risk if they are overweight, have poor lifestyle habits such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, a family history of the illness, or are African-American. High blood pressure in children may also be caused by kidney or heart problems.

References From Dianesays.com:

  1. “Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure.” 10/17/12. (This article provides additional information on how to reduce your risk for high blood pressure. Click on the category “Public Health” in the right-hand column to locate the article.)
  2. “Current Recommendations of the American Heart Association and 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Regarding Sodium Intake.” 11/09/11.
  3. “Hidden Sources of Sodium in the Diet.” 11/11/11.
  4. “Reduce Dietary Salt and Sodium for Good Health.” 11/08/11.
  5. “Some Tips to Reduce Your Salt Intake.” 11/09/11.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: