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Animation Movie AvailableRelated Media: Controlling Your High Blood Pressure

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop hypertension with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing hypertension. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for hypertension include:

  • Alcohol use —Drinking alcohol regularly and in large amounts increases blood pressure. This means drinking more than one daily drink for women or two for men.
  • Excess dietary sodium—In susceptible people, a high salt diet may contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Lack of exercise—Moderate to intense exercise, done regularly, improves heart function and promotes healthy arteries. If you are unaccustomed to exercise, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
  • Stress—Hormones released by your body when you are under stress can increase your blood pressure. This may aggravate high blood pressure in genetically susceptible individuals.
  • Obesity —Like all tissue, fatty tissue requires a rich blood supply. The heart has to work harder to deliver blood to all the body tissues in heavier people than in leaner people.
  • Other conditions associated with hypertension include:
  • Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)—Taking oral contraceptives may increase your risk of hypertension in certain situations. You are more likely to develop high blood pressure while taking birth control pills if you:
    • Have a family history of hypertension
    • Have kidney disease
    • Are overweight
    • Had high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Other medications—Certain drugs can increase your risk of hypertension and/or interfere with medications you may take to lower your blood pressure. These include:
    • Steroids
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Decongestants
    • Diet pills
    • Antidepressants

People age 35 and older are at increased risk of developing hypertension, although anyone, even children, can have high blood pressure.

Men are generally at greater risk for hypertension than pre-menopausal women. After menopause, though, a woman's risk increases and is slightly greater than that of a man of the same age.

Having family members with high blood pressure increases your risk of developing the condition.

Hypertension tends to develop at an earlier age and is more severe in blacks than in whites.

References:

High blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/. Accessed June 18, 2009.

High blood pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html. Updated November 2008. Accessed June 18, 2009.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.