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Who Is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure (HBP) is a common condition. In the United States, about 1 in 3 adults has HBP.

Certain traits, conditions, and habits can raise your risk for HBP. The major risk factors for HBP are described below.

Older Age

Blood pressure tends to rise with age. About 65 percent of Americans aged 60 or older have HBP.

Isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) is the most common form of HBP in older adults. ISH occurs when only systolic blood pressure (the top number) is high. About 2 out of 3 people over age 60 with HBP have ISH.

HBP doesn't have to be a routine part of aging. You can take steps to keep your blood pressure at a normal level. (For more information, go to "How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?")

Race/Ethnicity

HBP can affect anyone. However, it's more common in African American adults than in Caucasian or Hispanic American adults. In relation to these groups, African Americans:

  • Tend to get HBP earlier in life
  • Often have more severe HBP
  • Are more likely to be aware that they have HBP and to get treatment
  • Are less likely than Caucasians to achieve target control levels with HBP treatment
  • Have higher rates than Caucasians of early death from HBP-related problems, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure

HBP risks vary among different groups of Hispanic American adults. For instance, Puerto Rican American adults have higher rates of HBP-related death than all other Hispanic groups and Caucasians. However, Cuban Americans have lower rates of HBP-related death than Caucasians.

Overweight or Obesity

You're more likely to develop prehypertension or HBP if you're overweight or obese. The terms "overweight" and "obesity" refer to body weight that's greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height.

Gender

Men and women are equally likely to develop HBP during their lifetimes. However, before age 45, men are more likely to have HBP than women. After age 65, the condition is more likely to affect women than men.

Also, men younger than 55 are more likely to have uncontrolled HBP than women. However, after age 65, women are more likely to have uncontrolled HBP.

Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits

Many unhealthy lifestyle habits can raise your risk for HBP, including:

  • Eating too much sodium (salt)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not getting enough potassium in your diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking

Other Risk Factors

A family history of HBP raises your risk for the condition. Long-lasting stress also can put you at risk for HBP.

You're also more likely to develop HBP if you have prehypertension. Prehypertension means that your blood pressure is in the 120–139/80–89 mmHg range.

Risk Factors for Children and Teens

Prehypertension and HBP are becoming more common in children and teens. This is due in part to a rise in overweight and obesity among children and teens.

African American and Mexican American youth are more likely to have HBP and prehypertension than Caucasian youth. Also, boys are at higher risk for HBP than girls.

Like adults, children and teens need to have routine blood pressure checks, especially if they're overweight.

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August 2, 2012