High Blood Pressure - Risk Factors - Risk Factors

Many factors raise your risk of high blood pressure. Some risk factors, such as unhealthy lifestyle habits, can be changed. Other risk factors, such as age, family history and genetics, race and ethnicity, and sex, cannot be changed. A healthy lifestyle can lower your risk for developing high blood pressure.


Blood pressure tends to increase with age. Our 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 increasing for children and teens, possibly because of rise in the number of children and teens who are living with overweight or obesity.

Family history and genetics

High blood pressure often runs in families. Much of the understanding of the body systems involved in high blood pressure has come from genetic studies. Many different genes are linked to a small increase in the risk of developing high blood pressure. Research suggests that certain DNA changes as an unborn baby grows in the womb may also lead to high blood pressure later in life.

Some people have a high sensitivity to salt in their diet. This can also run in families.

Lifestyle habits

Lifestyle habits can increase the risk of high blood pressure. These habits include:

  • Eating unhealthy foods often, especially those with too much sodium and not enough potassium. Some people, including African Americans, older adults, and people who have chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, are more sensitive to salt in their diet.
  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
  • Not getting enough physical activity.
  • Smoking or using illegal drugs such as cocaine, “bath salts,” and methamphetamine.
  • Not getting enough good-quality sleep.


Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can make it more difficult for your body to control your blood pressure. Medicines that can raise your blood pressure include antidepressants, decongestants (medicines to relieve a stuffy nose), hormonal birth control pills, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

Other medical conditions

Other medical conditions change the way your body controls fluids, sodium, and hormone in your blood. Other medical causes of high blood pressure include:

Race or ethnicity

High blood pressure is more common in African American and Hispanic adults than in white or Asian adults. Compared with other racial or ethnic groups, African Americans tend to have higher average blood pressure numbers and get high blood pressure earlier in life. Experiencing discrimination has been tied to high blood pressure. In addition, some high blood pressure medicines may not work as well in African Americans.

During pregnancy, African American 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.

Social and economic factors

Recent research has shown that factors such as income, your education, where you live, and the type of job you have may contribute to your risk of developing high blood pressure. For example, working early or late shifts can raise your risk.

Experiencing danger or harm as a child has also been tied to a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.