Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury. It has two numbers. You can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. And once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure increases to unhealthy levels. Your blood pressure measurement takes into account how much blood is passing through your blood vessels and the amount of resistance the blood meets while the heart is pumping. Narrow arteries increase resistance. The narrower your arteries are, the higher your blood pressure will be. Over the long term, increased pressure can cause health issues, including heart disease.
Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type of high blood pressure, called secondary hypertension, tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than does primary hypertension. Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:
Obstructive sleep apnea
Adrenal gland tumors
Certain defects you’re born with (congenital) in blood vessels
Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
Primary hypertension is also called essential hypertension. This kind of hypertension develops over time with no identifiable cause. Most people have this type of high blood pressure.
Researchers are still unclear what mechanisms cause blood pressure to slowly increase. A combination of factors may play a role. These factors include:
Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to hypertension. This may be from gene mutations or genetic abnormalities inherited from your parents.
Physical changes: If something in your body changes, you may begin experiencing issues throughout your body. High blood pressure may be one of those issues. For example, it’s thought that changes in your kidney function due to aging may upset the body’s natural balance of salts and fluid. This change may cause your body’s blood pressure to increase.
Environment: Over time, unhealthy lifestyle choices like lack of physical activity and poor diet can take their toll on your body. Lifestyle choices can lead to weight problems. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for hypertension.
Who Is More Likely to Develop High Blood Pressure?
People with family members who have high blood pressure
Women who take birth control pills
People over the age of 35
People who are overweight or obese
People who are not active
People who drink alcohol excessively
People who eat too many fatty foods or foods with too much salt
People who have sleep apnea