Most Common Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

The health dangers of high blood pressure, or hypertension, can range from a diminished quality of life to heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure often don't show up until the condition is serious. That is why it's important for adults to be aware of the risk factors for high blood pressure, and to have regular blood pressure readings, which measure how hard your heart has to work to keep pumping. Here are some of the risk factors for high blood pressure:

Advancing age is perhaps the most common of the risk factors for high blood pressure. As we age, arteries are more likely to become hardened and we tend to be more sedentary; both of these can be causes of high blood pressure. Men should be on the alert for the risk of high blood pressure in the early years of middle age. Women are likely to experience a rise in blood pressure around the time of menopause.

Excess salt, or sodium, in your diet can elevate blood pressure by making your body retain fluids. Fortunately, this is one of the risk factors for high blood pressure that can be controlled by cutting down on salt and avoiding foods with a high-sodium content. Getting enough potassium in your diet also helps you prevent the accumulation of too much sodium.

Smoking (even secondhand smoke) will not only temporarily raise blood pressure; it can damage and narrow the lining of the artery walls. Narrow artery walls prohibit blood flow, causing your heart to work harder and increasing blood pressure. Chewing tobacco has the same effect of immediately raising blood pressure and creating more lasting damage to the arteries.

Heredity plays a role in determining your risk factors for high blood pressure. If your parents and siblings have high blood pressure, chances are you are at risk as well.

Race is one of the risk factors for high blood pressure. It is more common for blacks to have high blood pressure, and to develop it at an earlier age. Blacks are also at greater risk for stroke and heart attack.

Lack of exercise or even moderate physical activity can make it more difficult for your heart to pump efficiently, which puts more stress on your arteries. Keep in mind that your heart is a muscle that needs to be developed. But start slowly, and check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program.

Obesity or being overweight requires more blood in the system to keep the supply of oxygen and nutrients flowing. This creates one of the risk factors for high blood pressure because increased blood volume in the blood vessels leads to more pressure on artery walls. Exercise helps the body maintain a healthy weight, and can help diminishes this risk factor for high blood pressure.

Stress has been shown to be one of the risk factors for high blood pressure. Practicing strategies for managing stress can help you lower this risk factor and protect the health of your heart.

Excessive alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure in the short term and damages the heart in the long run.

Other risk factors for high blood pressure include pregnancy, certain chronic conditions, and a lack of vitamin D in your diet. It's still important to have regular blood pressure readings, but being aware of what can cause high blood pressure may help you control it.

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