Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure

Many risk factors of high blood pressure (hypertension) can be controlled or managed. There are, however, some hypertension risk factors that cannot be altered.

To win the battle against high blood pressure, one must be aware of both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors.

Some risk factors of hypertension are attributable to our physical disposition and cannot be altered.

These, however, form only a small proportion of the overall high blood pressure risk factors.

Fortunately, most risk factors can be controlled. Early, effective and consistent action can minimize or completely eliminate many controllable risk factors of hypertension.

First let us look at those risk factors that cannot be changed.

Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure that CANNOT be Changed

High blood pressure is certainly not an equal opportunity disease. There are definitely certain groups of people that are at greater risk of developing hypertension. Risk factors that put some groups of people at greater risk of high blood pressure include the following:

  • Genetics - This is one of the main uncontrollable hypertension risk factors. Persons whose parents have or had high blood pressure are at greater risk of developing this disease. If one of parent is affected by high blood pressure, there is a 25% chance that their child or children will develop the disease. If both parents suffer from hypertension, the odds of their child or children developing this disease increase to 50%. The risk increases if both parents or if a parent and a sibling have hypertension. People who develop hypertension before the age of fifty, are almost 4 times more likely to have a family history of the disease.

  • Race - Similar to genetics, race is another one of the main uncontrollable risk factors of high blood pressure. Of all races, persons of African descent are at greatest risk of developing high blood pressure. This disease affects approximately 33% of persons of African descent, compared to 25% of Caucasians. It also tends to occur at a younger age in persons of African descent, with more serious consequences. In fact, the hypertension death rate among persons of African descent is close to 45% compared to 13% for Caucasians.

  • Gender - Gender is one of those high blood pressure risk factors that is closely associated to age. Males under the age of sixty are at greater risk of developing hypertension, than females of similar age. After age sixty, however, the risk is reversed... meaning that women over sixty years old are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure than males of similar age. It should be noted, however, that at all age levels, females with hypertension seem to fare better than their male counterparts. They suffer from fewer cardiovascular and other problems associated with high blood pressure.

  • Age - The risk of developing high blood pressure increases with age. Statistics show that approximately 50% of adults over the age of sixty, and almost 80% over the age of seventy, have hypertension. The most likely cause of this is age-related atherosclerosis.

    Atherosclerosis is a degenerative disease of the arteries associated with fatty deposits on the inner walls, leading to reduced blood flow.

    Other risk factors of hypertension in older persons can also be as a result of being overweight, inactivity (lack of exercise), poor nutrition, and general decrease in kidney function.

Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure that CAN be Changed

If you happen to fall within any of the groups above, please pay special attention. By understanding and eliminating the risk factors that can be changed or controlled, minimizes the risk of developing hypertension. Even patients who may have already developed hypertension can significantly reduce their blood pressure if they take steps to reduce or eliminate the controllable risk factors.

The following are some of the high blood pressure risk factors that can be controlled or eliminated, with some effort.

  • Obesity is one of the chief risk factors of hypertension. Each pound of extra fat requires lots more blood vessels to provide blood to it. All of these added blood vessels increase peripheral resistance and blood pressure. Additionally, just carrying around extra weight also increases the workload on the heart, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases.

  • Inactivity or lack of exercise ranks highly on the list of controllable risk factors of high blood pressure. Many of us sit for long hours at our work desks and then when we get home we sit on the couch to look at television. This is not good for our health. Aerobic exercises help to reduce hypertension by controlling weight, reducing emotional tension, and stimulating vasodilation (widening of blood vessels).

  • Dietary factors are also significant contributors to hypertension. Due to demanding lifestyles, many of us do not take the time to prepare nutritious meals. Instead, we settle for foods that are convenient, but have very little nutrients. Diets high in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fatty acids, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and possibly caffeine are major contributors to high blood pressure. They cause fatty deposits to build up on the inner walls of the arteries, reducing blood flow. Additional pressure is also placed on the kidneys and other vital organs, to regulate and eliminate excess salt and sugar.

  • Nicotine (found in tobacco) is another devastating contributor to hypertension. It stimulates the heart to beat faster and harder; it causes narrowing of blood vessels due to muscular constriction and thus increases blood pressure. This can lead to serious heart problems.

  • Alcohol abuse is another one of the controllable risk factors of high blood pressure. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure. Patients with hypertension especially those who fall within the uncontrollable risk factors category should completely eliminate alcohol from their diet. Some people can tolerate small amounts, occasionally, without any adverse effects. However, the temptation to over-indulge should be avoided. Persons who are not hypertensive should limit daily consumption of alcohol to 24 ounces of beer, or 10 ounces of wine, or 2 ounces of hard liquor.

  • Drug use can increase blood pressure. Certain kinds of prescription, over-the-counter drugs and illegal (recreational) drugs can cause blood pressure to increase. If you are on any prescription or non-prescription medication, ask your doctor if they might be increasing your blood pressure. Avoid illegal drugs completely!

  • Emotional stress can elevate blood pressure. If you are prone to emotional stress you should exercise regularly, set aside time to relax, and participate in other stress reducing activities. This is vitally important for lowering high blood pressure and maintaining good mental health.

Secondary hypertension may or may not be included among the controllable risk factors of high blood pressure.

Secondary hypertension is high blood pressure that is caused by another medical condition or disease.

The successful elimination or reduction of this risk factor is dependent on the successful treatment of the primary disease or condition that is causing high blood pressure.

The first step to effectively controlling hypertension is to concentrate on eliminating or reducing the controllable risk factors of high blood pressure. Consider each of the high blood pressure risk factors that can be changed and ask yourself if you are doing enough to eliminate or reduce them. If you take steps to eliminate or reduce controllable risk factors of hypertension, you will significantly reduce your risk of developing this dreadful disease (if you don't have it) or significantly reducing your blood pressure (if you have been, unfortunately, affected by it).

Even persons who fall within the uncontrollable risk factors category, would likely experience positive results if they eliminated or reduced the controllable risk factors of high blood pressure.