Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
Factors that can't be changed:
The risk of developing of high blood pressure, especially systolic, increases as you get older. Increase in blood pressure with age is mainly related to arteriosclerotic structural changes in the arteries and their calcification, or "hardening of the arteries"1.
African-Americans are more vulnerable to high blood pressure than Caucasians. Serious complications, such as stroke and heart attack, are also more severe in African Americans2.
Hypertension is related to social factors such as urbanization and education. High blood pressure is more common among the less educated and lower socioeconomic groups3. Residents of the southeastern United States are more likely to have high blood pressure than Americans from other regions.
4Family history (heredity)
The tendency to have high blood pressure appears to run in families. Genetic heritability of blood pressure has been documented in familial and twin studies.
Generally men have a greater likelihood of developing high blood pressure than women. This likelihood varies according to age and among various ethnic groups4.
- Winter season - winter season is linked to higher blood pressure because low external temperatures cause blood vessels to narrow5.
- Loud noise - roadway traffic, airplanes, and occupational noises. Brief exposure to loud noise significantly increases blood pressure within minutes. There is some evidence that nighttime loud noise is more detrimental than daytime loud noise6.
- Air pollutants – Long‐term exposure to particulate matter can promote the development of hypertension.
Modifiable Risk Factors
Factors that can be changed:
8Excessive weight (obesity)
Excess body weight is one of the most serious risk factors for the development and progression of high blood pressure8. On the other hand weight loss is associated with a significant decrease of blood pressure.
9Waist circumference (abdominal adiposity)
Waist circumference, a measure of excess fat around the waist, is even more strongly associated with high blood pressure than overall obesity, particularly in young people8.
10Physical inactivity (sedentary behavior)
Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for physical inactivity for cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension.
European study found that spending more than two hours a day in front of a screen increases the risk of developing high blood pressure by 30%11.
Cigarette smoking is a powerful risk factor for cardiovascular diseases12. Both cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke acutely elevate blood pressure, mainly through the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.
12Excessive salt consumption
High dietary salt intake is an established risk factor for high blood pressure13.
Moderate reduction of salt consumption is generally an effective measure to reduce blood pressure.
13Low potassium intake
High quality evidence shows that high potassium intake promotes significant lowering of blood pressure15. Higher consumption levels are protective against stroke, coronary heart disease, and myocardial infarction.
According to WHO the most benefitial dosage of potassium is at least 90 mmol/day (3.510 mg/day) for adults14.
Stress can lead to a temporary but dramatic increase in blood pressure by stimulation of the nervous system16.
Moreover, work-related stress represents an important risk factor for high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases17. There is also evidence that inappropriate and excessive activation of the sympathetic nervous system plays a role in the development of hypertension, particularly in its early stages.
Major depression increases the risk for onset of hypertension7 .
Medications that have been reported to cause increased blood pressure or hypertension:
- Estroprogestinic compounds18
- Recombinant human erythropoietin
- Inhibitors of angiogenesis
- Ergot alkaloids
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- 13. Ha SK. Dietary salt intake and hypertension. Electrolyte Blood Press. 2014 Jun;12(1):7-18.
- 14. Increasing potassium intake to reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular diseases in adults. WHO
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Published: March 27, 2019
Last updated: March 27, 2019
Written by eMedExpert staff