Causes of High Blood Pressure

There are many causes of high blood pressure. They include:

  • Age
  • Health Conditions
  • Behavior
  • Heredity
  • Sodium

Age as one of the Causes of High Blood Pressure

The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. Age is therefore one of the causes of hypertension. The older a person is, the greater the chance of developing high blood pressure. This risk due to age applies to everyone. It is important for everyone to monitor their blood pressure as they age, whether or not they think they have a family history.

Health Conditions

There are some health conditions that predispose someone to high blood pressure. These medical conditions include diabetes, prehypertension and kidney disease and others.


Prehypertension is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure is above normal, but still less than the level that is considered to be high blood pressure. This is usually in the systolic range of 120–139 mmHg and diastolic range of 80–89 mmHg. It is good for people in this blood pressure range to take extra steps and precautions to prevent hypertension.

Blood Pressure Levels


Systolic: less than 120 mmHg
Diastolic: less than 80 mmHg

At Risk (Prehypertension)

Systolic: 120–139 mmHg
Diastolic: 80–89 mmHg


Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

Source: CDC

Causes of High Blood Pressure

Diabetes is one of the causes of high blood pressure. According to CDC, 60% of diabetics also have high blood pressure. Diabetes predisposes a person to hypertension. One of the reasons that this happens could be because high blood sugar in the arteries causes glucose to be deposited on the walls of the blood vessels. The sugar deposit then reduces the flexibility of the blood vessels, which in turn, causes increase in resistance of the blood vessels. In addition, to the sugar deposits on the walls of the arteries, increase in blood glucose also increases the thickness of the blood. The increased thickness of the blood also increases the pressure that the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries. This can weaken the walls of the arteries and make them less flexible with time. Increased resistance and increase in blood thickness then result in increase in blood pressure. As time goes on and this resistance becomes chronic, the diabetic person now develops chronic high blood pressure in addition to diabetes.

Kidney Disease is one of the causes of hypertension.

Many people with chronic kidney disease also have high blood pressure. The kidney releases the hormones that regulate the blood pressure. The kidney also removes sodium from the blood. In kidney disease, the hormones may not function properly and more sodium may be left in the blood. These and other factors are causes of high blood pressure.


Source: Mattes, RD, Donnelly, D. Relative contributions of dietary sodium sources. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1991;10(4):383–393.

High Sodium Diet

Sodium intake is known to be one of the causes of high blood pressure. This is because sodium tends to draw water to itself. When there is high sodium in the blood, the blood starts to pull more water into the blood vessels. This increases the volume of blood. The higher the volume of blood in the blood vessels, the higher the blood pressure is. It means that there is too much fluid applying pressure to the arterial wall. When sodium is low in blood, water moves out of the blood vessels

and that reduces the volume of blood and the pressure that it is applying to the blood vessels. Eating diets that are low in sodium is a good way to lower high blood pressure.

The CDC recommends 1,500mg of sodium or less a day for those in the following groups:

  • People 51 years of age or older.
  • African American.
  • Those with high blood pressure.
  • Those with diabetes.
  • Those with chronic kidney disease.

About 50% of all Americans are said to fall into the above categories. Those who do not fall into the above categories should not exceed 2,300mg of sodium a day. People get sodium from salt and other foods. Most sodium comes from processed food. You can significantly reduce sodium intake, just by avoiding processed food. Always check the label for sodium content before buying processed or any food.

On the other hands, potassium rich foods like fruits and vegetables reduce blood pressure. People need to get about 4,700 mg of potassium from fruits and vegetables every day.

The pie chart below shows the likely sources of sodium and supports the assertion that avoiding processed food will significantly lower sodium intake.


Certain behaviors can cause high blood pressure. An important thing about behavior is that it is the most controllable of all high blood pressure causes. They include:

Diet Choices

Bad diet choices that are high in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats and low in fruits and vegetables can cause hypertension. Choosing the right diet can prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure. High blood pressure diet is a healthy diet that contains fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of potassium and is high in fiber. Hypertension diet is also low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fats.

Maintaining Optimum Body Weight

Overweight is of the high blood pressure causes. Too much weight can increase the work the heart is doing to pump blood and increases the pressure in the blood vessels. Keeping an optimum weight can help prevent high blood pressure. You can use the BMI chart to find out where your height and weight falls into and take steps to keep your weight within the normal range. This can be done by a combination of diet and exercise.

Physical Inactivity

Lack of exercise or low physical activity are causes of hypertension. Sedentary lifestyle can make someone gain weight, increase blood sugar and cholesterol and make the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. All these put together can increase blood pressure. A good exercise program can help in preventing or delaying the onset of high blood pressure.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol is among the causes of high blood pressure. It is known to increase blood pressure. We do not know exactly how this happens, but it is known that alcohol can contribute to increase in weight, especially around the abdomen, which is one of the high blood pressure causes. Alcohol can also affect the medication a person is already taking for hypertension, which can make the disease worse.

Tobacco Use

One of the causes of high blood pressure is smoking. Smoking is known to make arteries narrow and thicken and this increases resistance of the arteries. The increase in resistance of the arteries increases blood pressure. It is important to avoid cigarette smoking in order to prevent hypertension. If you have other diseases, like diabetes, the risk is even increased further.

Heredity As One Of The Causes of High Blood Pressure

Heredity can be said to be one of the causes of hypertension. By heredity, we mean those things we get from our parents and relatives. It means that we have certain genes that predispose us to those diseases. While we cannot change our genes (at least for now) there are things that we can do to prevent or at least delay the development of the disease. What we can do is modifying our behaviors as listed above.

The causes of high blood pressure that are due to heredity may include.

Race and Ethnicity.

Being of African American or of African descent generally seem to predispose one to high pretension. African Americans develop hypertension at much greater rate than their white counterparts. It is not yet clear whether this is due to prevalence of certain genes or whether it is due to the fact that African Americans have more life stressors that white Americans. There is higher percentage of African Americans who fall within the lower socio-economic class, as such may not always afford the right diet. Whether or not this difference is due to heredity may become clearer as genetic studies evolve.

Family History

Having a family history is one of the causes of high blood pressure. Family history means that the person may have inherited certain genes that may make him or her more likely that other people to develop high blood pressure. This risk can be modified by behaviors that can lessen the chances of developing the disease. If heredity is combined with poor health behaviors and unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating a poor diet, the risk of high blood pressure will be significantly increased.

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