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What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure tends to rise with age, unless you take steps to prevent or control it.

Some medical problems—such as chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea—may cause blood pressure to rise. Some medicines also may raise your blood pressure. Examples include asthma medicines (for example, corticosteroids) and cold-relief products.

Other medicines also can cause high blood pressure (HBP). If you have HBP, let your doctor know about all of the medicines you take, including over-the-counter products.

In some women, birth control pills, pregnancy, or hormone therapy (HT) may cause blood pressure to rise.

Women taking birth control pills usually have a small rise in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures. If you already have HBP and want to use birth control pills, make sure your doctor knows about your HBP. Talk with him or her about how often you should have your blood pressure checked and how to control it while taking the pill.

Taking HT to reduce the symptoms of menopause can cause a small rise in systolic blood pressure. If you already have HBP and want to start using HT, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits. If you decide to take hormones, find out how to control your blood pressure and how often you should have it checked.

Children younger than 10 years old who have HBP often have another condition that's causing it (such as kidney disease). Treating the underlying condition may resolve the HBP.

The older a child is when HBP is diagnosed, the more likely he or she is to have essential hypertension. This means that doctors don't know what's causing the HBP.

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August 02, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.