This month is high blood pressure education month in the US, and today we’ll be unpacking some contributors to high blood pressure -- both the common causes, and the ones that get overlooked.
High blood pressure (hypertension) greatly elevates your risk for heart attacks, and strokes -- which are one of the leading causes of deaths in the US. As of 2018, almost half a million annual deaths were reported to have hypertension as a contributing factor. What’s more, according to the CDC about 45% of American adults have some degree of high blood pressure.
Given the severity of the situation, it’s important to recognize what current clinical research identifies as the causes of high blood pressure.
The Basics: Modifiable risk factors
Some basic health and fitness habits can put you at risk for high blood pressure, such as maintaining a diet with too much salt and too few fruits and vegetables, or not participating in enough exercise
Excessive substance use such as drinking too much alcohol or too much caffeine can also increase overall blood pressure.
Smoking and using tobacco causes a temporary increase in blood pressure, and can put strain on your arteries, lungs, and heart. This applies to second hand smoke as well.
Living a consistently stressful lifestyle, working in a stressful environment, lacking adequate stress relief and stress in your home life can all increase blood pressure. These environments can also lead to increased participation in any of the aforementioned risk-behaviors, further increasing your risk for high blood pressure.
Inadequate sleep, or sleep that is frequently disturbed may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, and sleep apnea is a particularly high risk factor.
Lesser known Predispositions to HBP
Those with a family history of high blood pressure or any heart-related illness are more likely to develop high blood pressure in their lifetime.
Women are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure, particularly after the age of 65. Before this time, factors such as pregnancy, or birth control can increase the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, and stroke.
Race plays a large role in HBP risk, with African Americans experiencing the highest rates and greatest severities of high blood pressure cases in the US.
As we age, our blood vessels gradually lose elasticity, which can cause increased instances of high blood pressure as we get older.
Finally, those with Chronic Kidney disease can cause high blood pressure, which in turn can cause further damage to the kidneys.
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