What Causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is the most common cardiovascular disease in the world. In the United States alone, 50 million people – that’s one in four – have high blood pressure.
And it’s nothing to sneeze at. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, kidney failure, and strokes, just to name a few of the possible risks.
Common Causes of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, which doctors often refer to as hypertension, doesn’t have one clear cause. In rare cases, referred to as secondary hypertension, physicians can identify a definite cause. In 95% of cases though – those referred to as essential hypertension – the primary cause is a mystery,
We know that it’s common for people to get it if others in their family have it, so there may be a genetic component. And we can link several common lifestyle choices, demographic categories, and illnesses to a likelihood of high blood pressure.
Men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women. African Americans are more likely to have it than white people. And your risk increases the older you get.
Illnesses Linked to High Blood Pressure
The main diseases known to cause or contribute to high blood pressure are kidney disease and sleep apnea. The cases where kidney disease contributes to high blood pressure are often those that fall in the secondary hypertension category, since doctors can make the link between the two diseases. Some adrenal and thyroid disorders are also associated with a higher risk of hypertension.
You can’t control your illnesses and demographics, but you can control the lifestyle factors that contribute to high blood pressure. Most of the items on the list are common to many health problems:
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Consuming too much salt
- Drinking alcohol heavily
- High stress
Some types of birth control can also increase your likelihood of experiencing high blood pressure, as can pregnancy.
Ways to Prevent High Blood Pressure
People who get high blood pressure due to an illness like kidney disease or sleep apnea should work to treat the original illness first. For the rest of us, the main path to avoiding high blood pressure should be pretty obvious based on the list above. And as a bonus, it’s the same list of suggestions for avoiding most other serious health problems seniors face:
- Exercise more
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Quit smoking
- Cut down on the amount of salt you put in your food
If you don’t quite achieve total prevention, don’t worry too much. Lots of people get high blood pressure at some point and it’s possible to manage it.
Make sure you get to your doctor for regular visits so they’ll have a chance to catch it before it gets too serious. If you do end up hearing you have hypertension on your next check up, you can work out a plan with your doctor to bring it down.
You may have to give up some of your tasty favorites at dinnertime and get off the couch a bit more often, but you can nip some of the more serious complications in the bud if you take action early.