High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Causes and Risk Factors

What are the risk factors?

Many factors raise your risk of high blood pressure. You can change some risk factors, such as unhealthy lifestyle habits. A healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for developing high blood pressure.

Other risk factors, such as age, family history and genetics, race and ethnicity, and sex, cannot be changed. But, you can still take steps to reduce your risk of high blood pressure and its complications.


Blood pressure tends to rise with age. Blood vessels naturally thicken and stiffen over time. These changes increase the risk for high blood pressure.

However, the risk of high blood pressure is rising for children and teens, possibly because more children and teens have overweight or obesity.

Family history and genetics

High blood pressure often runs in families. Much of what we know about high blood pressure has come from genetic studies. Many  genes are linked to small increases in high blood pressure risk. Research suggests that as an unborn baby grows in the womb, some DNA changes may also raise the risk for high blood pressure later in life.

Some people have a high sensitivity to salt in their diet, which can play a role in high blood pressure. This can also run in families.

Lifestyle habits

Lifestyle habits can increase the risk of high blood pressure, including if you:

  • Eat unhealthy foods often, especially foods that are high in salt and low in potassium. Some people, including Black people, older adults, and people who have chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, are more sensitive to salt in their diet.
  • Drink too much alcohol or caffeine
  • Don’t get enough physical activity
  • Don’t get enough good-quality sleep
  • Experience high-stress situations
  • Use substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, “bath salts,” or other stimulants


Some medicines can make it harder for your body to control your blood pressure. Antidepressants, decongestants (medicines to relieve a stuffy nose), hormonal birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can all raise your blood pressure.

Other medical conditions

Other medical conditions change the way your body controls fluids, sodium, and  hormones in your blood. Other conditions that can cause high blood pressure include:

Race or ethnicity

High blood pressure is more common in Black adults than in White, Hispanic, or Asian adults. Compared with other racial or ethnic groups, Black people tend to have higher average blood pressure numbers and get high blood pressure earlier in life. Also, some high blood pressure medicines may not work as well for Black people.

During pregnancy, Black women are more likely than White women to develop preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy disorder that causes sudden high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and liver.


Men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure throughout middle age. But in older adults, women are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure.

Women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to have high blood pressure later in life. Research shows that medicines used to control high blood pressure during pregnancy lower the chance of pregnancy complications and won’t harm the developing baby.

Social and economic factors

Research shows that factors such as income, education level, where you live, and the type of job you have, as well as stressors on the job may raise your risk of high blood pressure. Working early or late shifts is one example of a social factor that can raise your risk.

Experiencing discrimination and poverty has been linked to high blood pressure. Also, some research has shown that experiencing stress, danger, harm, or trauma as a child may raise the risk of high blood pressure.

Can High Blood Pressure be prevented?

How to prevent high blood pressure

A heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent high blood pressure and its complications.

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