Risk Factors Of Developing High Blood Pressure

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure is one of the most common diseases of modern society man, which contributes to significant morbidity and mortality. It is an ailment that does not arrive all of a sudden, but is a result of several factors that compile and contribute to this condition over a lifetime. Thus, knowing the factors that contribute to it or make one vulnerable to this deadly disease can be one of the best ways to prevent and treat it.
Risk Factors of Developing High Blood Pressure
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High Blood Pressure is one of the most common health challenges, and awareness of the condition is as important as medical advice and treatment. We need to understand the factors that cause it as well as those that can help in preventing or controlling it to have a better chance of keeping it at bay.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE or HYPERTENSION is one of the biggest silent killers of our time. It does not lead to any clear immediate symptoms that would allow its immediate diagnosis, and yet, it slowly affects various organs in the body, primarily the heart and the

blood vessels, and through them, a number of other body organs like kidneys, retina and brain, making the person affected vulnerable to various kind of health ailments that can often result in serious or even fatal consequences.

High Blood Pressure : An Overview

Physicians classify high blood pressure in two categories, PRIMARY or ESSENTIAL HYPERTENSION, which is not a direct result of any particular pre-existing disease; and SECONDARY HYPERTENSION that is a direct result of another disease. Most cases of high blood pressure belong to the first category, and there is no dearth of them. Over 72 million persons are afflicted with high blood pressure with this condition in United States itself. As far as the secondary hypertension is concerned, it can be managed by treating the primary disease that causes it, but for primary or essential hypertension, the only feasible interventions are controlling the risk factors – factors that are seen to be associated with high blood pressure very frequently.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Just like it is silent in its presence, primary high blood pressure is also unspecific in its origin. There is no single cause that causes high blood pressure. However, we now know that there are a number of factors that predispose to it. These are called risk factors, and are generally the subject of attention for treating the disease. They can be divided into two categories – reversible risk factors, that can be modified; and irreversible risk factors, that cannot be modified.

Reversible Risk Factor – Factors that can be Modified

WEIGHT – Excessive weight or obesity is one of the major factors, very commonly associated with high blood pressure. For this purpose, an excess of 30% over the normal weight is considered obesity, and it is observed that bringing this excess to below 15% can significantly reduce the risk of blood pressure.

EXERCISE – Better fitness that is achieved by regular exercise is seen to lower the risk of high blood pressure by making the whole cardio-respiratory system more efficient as well as the blood vessels more flexible.

TOBACCO - Smoking or use of tobacco in any form exacerbates the chances of getting high blood pressure.

LIFE STYLE & STRESS – A highly stressful life style is one of the most important risk factors for high blood pressure. Mental and emotional stress plays a greater role compared to physical stress, thereby highlighting the importance of regulating life style and balancing stress and relaxation in life.

ALCOHOL – While mild and occasional intake of alcohol does not make significant difference, excessive alcohol drinking is associated with high blood pressure. Partly, this effect of alcohol is due to the excess eating and smoking associated with excessive drinking.

INTAKE OF SALT – Intake of salt makes a lot of difference in case of those who have borderline or mild hypertension. Usually the excess salt is taken in the form of fast food, snacks and as added salt on the dining table.


Potassium balances sodium in the body. Its shortage in food also stimulates higher absorption of sodium which may predispose to a rise in blood pressure. Fruits and their juices and green leafy vegetables are the main sources of potassium in our diet.

LIFE STYLE – A highly stressful life style is one of the most important risk factors for high blood pressure. Mental and emotional stress plays a greater role compared to physical stress, thereby highlighting the importance of regulating life style and balancing stress and relaxation in life.

PILLS –Women taking birth control pills are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure due to the tendency of accumulating fluid and sodium in the body.

Irreversible Risk Factors: that cannot be Modified

These factors tell us about the likelihood of a person developing the disease, but they cannot be modified, so are not considered significant except for assessing the likelihood of further progression of disease.

AGE -   With age, the ARTERIES, the blood vessels that carry blood from heart to the body parts tend to become stiff, due to the phenomenon called ATHEROSCLEROSIS, or hardening of arteries. This causes a loss of flexibility. The flexibility of the arteries is important in keeping the blood pressure down, especially during the SYSTOLIC PHASE, the phase in which heart is contracting. Thus, with age, systolic blood pressure that is normally 120 mm Hg increases.

RACE – High blood pressure is seen more commonly among African Americans, which also develop it a relatively younger age. The higher blood pressure for a longer span often leads to more frequent complications, such as stroke and heart attack, in them.

FAMILY HISTORY / HEREDITY - Those with a history of high blood pressure in one of their parents or grand-parents are more likely to develop high blood pressure, indicating heredity as one of the contributing factors.

SEX – Males have been observed to be more likely to develop high blood pressure compared to women, especially in the lower age groups. This difference can be attributed partly to the female hormones and partly to the difference in the life styles between the two genders.

SOCIO ECONOMIC STATUS – High blood pressure is also observed to be more frequent among the less educated and the lower socio-economic groups.

Controlling Blood Pressure

Thus, we know about certain risk factors that are not modifiable, and useful only to the extent of guiding us about the probability of a person developing high blood pressure. More importantly, we are also aware of a number of risk factors that can be controlled like weight, smoking, exercise and stress. These, along with control of sodium intake are some of important means of controlling borderline and mildly high blood pressure.

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