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:
- smoke cigarettes
- drink too much alcohol
- follow an unhealthy diet
- consume excessive salt
- are stressed
- are physically inactive
- or overweight.
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
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.
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