What causes high blood pressure, really? There are many causes. And they are all preventable.
If your blood pressure gets too high or stays high for a long time, it can cause health problems. Uncontrolled high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk for stroke, heart disease, heart attack, and kidney failure.
What is High Blood Pressure
Your heart pumps blood around your body through a network of vessels (tubes) called arteries. With each heartbeat the blood pushes against the artery walls. The strength of this ‘pushing’ is your blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of your blood as it flows through the arteries in your body. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries. As the blood flows, it puts pressure on your artery walls. This is called blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is diagnosed when your reading is measured on two different days. If the systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings are higher than normal, it is likely you will be diagnosed with hypertension.
There are two stages of hypertension:
- Stage 1 – The systolic pressure is 130-139mmHg and the diastolic is 80-89mmHg
- Stage 2 – The systolic pressure is >140 mmHg and the diastolic is > 90 mmHg (). High blood pressure could be caused by controllable factors, uncontrollable factors, a health condition/diseases or medication.
Normal Blood Pressure (by Age)
|Age||Systolic Blood Pressure||Diastolic Blood Pressure|
What Causes High Blood Pressure
The good news is that majority of the cases of high blood pressure are actually caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. Which makes this a relatively easy problem to fix, provided you’re able to identify what food you often eat (that you need to avoid) and what lifestyle changes you need to make.
Some of the most common factors that causes high blood pressure due to diet and lifestyle are:
- Poor Diet – Eating foods that are processed, contain high amounts of sodium, low in potassium, or consuming too much alcohol.
- Nicotine – Moderate to heavy amounts of smoking cigarettes.
- Not Physically Active – Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little to no physical activity (or exercise).
- Stress – High levels of stress or poor coping mechanisms to stress or pressures of daily life.
How Does Stress Cause High Blood Pressure
Due to an increase in stress level, the sympathetic nervous system activates and hence results in increased blood pressure. By blocking the orexin receptor, blood pressure can be reduced on its blocking, cardiovascular system does not respond to stress.
Other Common Causes of Hypertension
Although poor diet and lifestyle choices can be said to be the primary source of high blood pressure, there are also other factors that may lead to hypertension.
Here are some other factors that causes high blood pressure:
- Genetics – If you have a family history of high blood pressure, chances are high that you may also be more susceptible to getting high blood pressure.
- Race – Surprisingly, statistics of high blood pressure varies according to race. Black adults account for 54% of cases (in America), white adults account for 46%, Asian adults are 39%, while Hispanic adults are 36%.
- Increasing Age – The prevalence of hypertension increases with age, from 7.5% among adults aged 18–39 to 33.2% among those aged 40–59, and 63.1% among those aged 60 and over.
- Gender – More men get hypertension compared to women. A greater percentage of men (47%) have high blood pressure than women (43%).
List of Health Conditions that Causes High Blood Pressure:
There are also certain health conditions or diseases that increase blood pressure and contribute to high blood pressure. Some of the common ones are:
- Kidney disease
- Sleep apnea
- Hormone problems (such as an underactive thyroid, an overactive thyroid, Cushing’s syndrome, acromegaly, increased levels of the hormone aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism), and pheochromocytoma)
List of Medications that Causes High Blood Pressure
Medications are an important tool that aids in the recovery of numerous ailments. But many of them also comes with side effects.
Some medications have been known to cause high blood pressure, such as:
- Contraceptive pill
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- Some pharmacy cough and cold remedies
- Certain herbal remedies – particularly those containing liquorice
- A number of selective serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI) antidepressants – such as venlafaxine
Note: Recreational drugs also causes high blood pressure, such as cocaine and amphetamines
5 Tips to Prevent High Blood Pressure
Now that you’ve understood how blood pressure works and what causes high blood pressure, it’s time to learn how to prevent from getting hypertension.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
One of the most well-known dietary strategies for lowering blood pressure is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) approach. The DASH dietary plan emphasizes a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and reduces saturated and total fat.
A trial called the Optimal Macro-Nutrient Intake to Prevent Heart Disease (OmniHeart) demonstrated that within a DASH-like dietary pattern, substituting protein for carbohydrate or substituting fat (primarily monounsaturated) for carbohydrate directly leads to lower blood pressure.
Based on the DASH diet, we have created a quick list that lays out 4 common food types that prevent high blood pressure.
2. Be Physically Active
Exercise is a key component of lifestyle therapy for the primary prevention and treatment of hypertension. A number of studies consistently demonstrate beneficial effects of exercise on hypertension with reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure with as much as 5–7 mmHg reductions in those with hypertension.
The American Heart Association advises people to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both – preferably spread throughout the week for a healthy life.
For some easy ways to keep fit, we have compiled a list of 3 easy exercises you can do at home to reduce hypertension.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important to your overall health, and enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy.
Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night. In the Sleep Heart Health Study, sleep duration above or below the median of 7 to less than 8 hours per night is associated with an increased prevalence of hypertension, particularly at the extreme of fewer than 6 hours per night.
This is because blood pressure decreases during sleep, therefore reducing dipping of blood pressure during sleep increases cardiovascular risk.
4. Manage Stress
Learning how to relax and manage stress can improve your emotional and physical health and lower high blood pressure. Stress management techniques include exercising, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.
Here is a great guide by Harvard Health on how to reduce stress:
5. Do Not Smoke
Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increase the risk of getting high blood pressure. It causes the buildup of fatty substances (plaque) inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) – a process that high blood pressure is known to accelerate.
Every time you smoke, it also causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. So, if you’re still smoking, now would be a good time to quit.
Hypertension can easily be avoided. But if you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it might be a good idea to also get a full medical check up. Get to know about your heart health and consult with our specialists by booking a slot through Smarter Health.