High blood pressure (hypertension) has many risk factors, including:
The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Until about age 64, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
High blood pressure is particularly common among people of African heritage, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure, also are more common in people of African heritage.
High blood pressure tends to run in families.
Being overweight or obese
The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls. Excessive obesity can also trigger high blood pressure and develop good exercise habits, which can effectively reduce fat in the body’s blood and lower blood pressure.
Not being physically active
People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.
Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow and increase your risk of heart disease.
Secondhand smoke also can increase your heart disease risk.
Too much salt (sodium) in your diet
Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.
Too little potassium in your diet
Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.
Drinking too much alcohol
Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men may affect your blood pressure.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure.
Certain chronic conditions
Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, such as kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea.