For most adults, there’s no one identifiable cause of hypertension. According to BUPA, this applies to 95 out of every 100 adults diagnosed with the condition.

This type of high blood pressure is called ‘essential’ or primary hypertension, and it tends to develop gradually over a period of years. The underlying reasons why a certain person develops high blood pressure is usually down to a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Genetic hypertension causes are under intense scrutiny at the moment, especially those that regulate a group of hormones known as the angiotensin-renin-aldosterone system. As reported in the NY Times Health Guide recently, studies have shown that some people may inherit abnormalities of the nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls heart rate, blood pressure and the diameter of the blood vessels.

Secondary hypertension causes

Secondary hypertension is where a known underlying condition brings about high blood pressure. Secondary hypertension is far less common than primary hypertension. It tends to appear suddenly and causes blood pressure to be higher than in primary hypertension. According to the Mayo Clinic, various conditions and medications can lead to this condition including:

    • Kidney problems.
    • Medications including birth control pills, cold remedies, over the counter pain relief treatments, decongestants and some prescribed drugs.
    • Tumors of the adrenal glands.
    • Illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
    • Pregnancy which can lead to a life-threatening condition known as preeclampsia.

Lifestyle factors known to have a big effect on blood pressure

The risk of developing high blood pressure increases with age. Middle aged men are more likely to have the condition, while post-menopausal women are also at higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

Race is another factor, with high blood pressure more common in people of color, where it usually develops at an earlier age too, and tends to lead to more serious complications such as heart attacks.

Being obese or overweight is another factor linked to high blood pressure. The more weight you carry around the more blood you need to carry oxygen and nutrients to tissues. As the volume of blood increases so does the pressure on the artery walls.

Inactive people are more likely to have high blood pressure, because their heart rate is higher, and the heart has to work harder with each contraction, putting extra pressure on the arteries.
Smoking is one of the most clear hypertension causes, not only because for its immediate effect but for the impact the chemicals in tobacco have on artery walls, causing them to narrow and increasing blood pressure. Secondhand smoke also increases blood pressure.

Too much salt in the diet can cause the body to retain fluid, increasing blood pressure, while too little potassium means you may accumulate too much sodium in the blood.

Stress is another factor that can increase blood pressure dramatically in the short term.
There are multiple hypertension causes and any one or a combination could lead to high blood pressure. By stopping smoking, reducing salt intake, taking up regular exercise and losing weight you’re giving yourself the best chance of avoiding high blood pressure.

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