What Causes High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, has many different causes. When high blood pressure has no obvious underlying cause, except increasing age, it is often referred to as primary or essential hypertension. When high blood pressure results from another underlying condition, such as kidney disease, it is known as secondary hypertension.

Causes of essential hypertension

One of the main causes of high blood pressure is hardening and furring up of the arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this reduces the elasticity of your arteries so they no longer absorb the ‘shock’ as blood pulses through your system.

Both atherosclerosis and high blood pressure naturally increase with age and come on more quickly if you:

High blood pressure also runs in some families, so if your parents, brother or sister have a raised blood pressure, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly, too.

New research suggests this genetic effect may relate to how well your body juggles the regulation of blood pressure and body temperature by directing blood away from your internal organs towards your skin. In some people, this juggling effect causes changes within the walls of tiny arteries that lead to high blood pressure. It may also explain why people who form keloid scars in the skin have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

Young people get high blood pressure too

People with no known risk factors can develop a high blood pressure, including many in their 20s and 30s. Even teenagers can develop high blood pressure, so don’t think you can ignore your blood pressure until later in life – hypertension can develop at any age. What’s more, it doesn’t cause specific symptoms so you won’t know you are affected. That’s why it’s often referred to as the ‘silent killer’.

Just as diet and lifestyle factors can hasten the onset and progression of hypertension, changing your diet and lifestyle can help bring it under control, too. That mean’s avoiding excess stress, taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, cutting back on salt intake, sticking to safe alcohol limits and losing at least some excess weight. All the things you probably know you should do anyway. Don’t pay them lip service – do something about it. Make this the first day of the rest of your healthier life. You could live longer as a result.

Causes of secondary hypertension

Some pre-existing health problems can cause secondary hypertension, including kidney disease, hormone imbalances and some medications. Secondary hypertension is covered more fully HERE.

If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.

Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.

See my recommended upper arm blood pressure monitors.

Image credit: marco_mayer/shutterstock

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2 thoughts on “What Causes High Blood Pressure

  • Matt's Mom

    Thank you for sharing this post! I was interested in all the different things that can cause high blood pressure. I didn’t realize that excessive salt was one of them. I always thought that the most problematic thing to do was fatty foods. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information!

    • DrSarahBrewer Post author

      Fats were traditionally viewed as bad from a calorie point of view – especially if you need to lose weight. There’s now a growing understanding that, in fact, processed carbs are worse as they stimulate production of insulin – the main fat storing hormone in the body. Cutting back on salt will help to lower blood pressure in many people.