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.
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?")
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.
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
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.
Myth-busting blood pressure - a hypertension Google+ hangout in honor of World Hypertension Day04/18/2013
Moderated by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown, this "Google+ Hangout on Air" features a panel of experts from the American Heart Association as well as nutritionist Janet M. de Jesus from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The panelists discuss common myths and misconceptions about hypertension (high blood pressure) and what you can do to prevent or treat the "silent killer." The chat was streamed live on April 5, 2013 in honor of World Health Day on Sunday, April 7.
The NHLBI "Grand Opportunity" Exome Sequencing Project05/16/2012
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—discusses the NHLBI's Exome Sequencing Project. Made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this project provided six awards at five academic institutions to identify genetic connections to heart, lung, and blood diseases. Individual studies will address critical health issues, such as heart attack, stroke, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, and others.
Managing High Blood Pressure With Lifestyle Changes05/18/2011
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—shows how Kendra, the mother of a teenaged daughter, has learned to manage her high blood pressure. Before being diagnosed with high blood pressure, Kendra suffered from chronic headaches and tiredness. At a health fair sponsored by her company, Kendra learned that her blood pressure was high, which prompted her to see her doctor.
After being diagnosed with high blood pressure, Kendra made a commitment to living a healthier lifestyle. By following a healthy diet and being physically active, she lost almost 60 pounds. With the support of her girlfriend and daughter, Kendra has maintained her weight loss and continues to make lifestyle changes that allow her to live an active, happy life.
For more information about managing high blood pressure with lifestyle changes, go to the Health Topics High Blood Pressure article.