Some BP risk factors are out of your control, but most are totally in your power.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can increase your risk of a long list of scary-sounding health conditions: heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and even sexual dysfunction, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Here’s more info about how high BP affects your body.
Another way to look at it: Preventing high BP could help lower your risk for all those other serious conditions. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle and learning your personal risk factors for high blood pressure are crucial components to keeping blood pressure numbers under control.
First things first: high BP doesn’t necessarily cause symptoms, according to Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, Clinical Instructor in Medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital. (Some patients experience subtle side effects of hypertension.) That’s why knowing your risk factors and checking in with your doctor regularly is so important.
These are the risk factors linked to hypertension that cardiologists want you to be aware of.
A family history of high BP: “When we think about high blood pressure, the majority of the time, it’s genetic,” says Rachel Bond, MD, cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Race and ethnicity: In the America, African Americans are diagnosed with hypertension more often than people of other racial backgrounds, according to AHA.
Sedentary lifestyle: Exercising regularly (and avoiding too much time sitting) may boost heart health, which can keep BP numbers low. And remember, the health benefits of exercise go far beyond just lowering your BP.
Being overweight or obese: Extra weight puts strain on the heart and circulatory system, according to AHA.
An unhealthy diet: A particular concern is a diet high in sodium and processed foods. Not only does an unhealthy diet deprive your body of the nutrients in fresh foods (like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and legumes), but the high levels of sodium in processed foods also causes fluid retention in the blood vessels. This increases BP. A 2018 study of 4,480 adults found that increased sodium levels predicted increased BP results, regardless of age, sex, race, and economic status of the participants. Learn about the DASH diet for a healthy heart here.
Smoking: Tobacco can damage, narrow, and harden arteries. Healthy arteries are pliable and can expand when necessary; when the arteries can’t expand, blood pressure rises. Learn more about smoking’s effects on your body here.
Excessive alcohol intake: Here’s more info on how much alcohol is safe for a healthy heart.
Obstructive sleep apnea: This sleep disorder causes patients to repeatedly stop breathing throughout the night, causing them to wake up frequently. “If you have obstructive sleep apnea, that can definitely increase your risk of having high blood pressure,” says Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD, cardiologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center. “When we diagnose obstructive sleep apnea and we treat it, we can expect that those blood pressure numbers will come down.”
Diabetes: Diabetes can put a strain on your kidneys, which can also affect blood pressure, according to AHA. If untreated, type 2 diabetes can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Older age: Your arteries slowly lose some of their elasticity as you age, which makes you more susceptible to higher BP.
High cholesterol: Over half of patients who have hypertension also have high cholesterol, according to AHA.
Hormones: Interestingly, a woman’s chances of developing high BP increase after menopause, even for women who’ve had healthy BP for most of their lives. For younger people, high BP may be a sign of another underlying condition. For instance, it might indicate an hormone abnormality, according to Dr. Bond.
Certain medications: Birth control pills are one example of a medication that may increase blood pressure for some women, particularly women who are overweight or have a personal or family history of high BP or kidney disease.
“Having high blood pressure or having high cholesterol doesn’t mean you have heart disease, Those are risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Knoepflmacher. “It’s like saying, someone had a drink and then they went driving. It doesn’t mean they’re going to crash; it increases the risk they’re going to crash.”
Remember: the majority of these high blood pressure risk factors can be modified, which means you can decrease your chances of having high blood pressure—and all the other conditions it’s linked to. Take action: Here are proven ways to lower blood pressure naturally.
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.Rachel Bond
Dr. Bond is a cardiologist and associate director of the Women's Heart Health Program at Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.Michelle Weisfelner Bloom
Dr. Bloom is an associate professor of medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and a fellow of the Heart Failure Society of America.
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We know that high blood pressure
is a major risk factor,
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probably the major risk factor,
for cardiovascular disease.
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It's not something that
people necessarily feel.
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They don't feel badly all the time
from high blood pressure, but yet
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it's a very potent risk factor for
disease and death.
00:00:22,940 --> 00:00:26,940
So risk factors that could cause
high blood pressure, most commonly,
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is a family history.
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When we think about blood pressure,
the majority of the time it's genetic,
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your race and ethnicity.
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We know that, disproportionately,
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African Americans are at higher
risk of having high blood pressure.
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And a lot of it has to do
with the genetics of it.
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Other things that can cause
a rise in your blood pressure can
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include lack of exercise, for example.
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Or if you are overweight or
obese, for example,
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depending on what your
waist circumference is.
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Additionally, if you
have a very poor diet.
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Smoking is another risk
factor that we think about
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that puts you at a much higher risk
of having elevated blood pressure.
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Drinking too much alcohol.
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So a male, for example,
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really shouldn't have more than three
eight-ounce glasses of alcohol in a day.
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more than two eight-ounce glasses.
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If you go above that, you're putting
yourself at risk of not just
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high blood pressure, but
other cardiac diseases as well.
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Another important thing that we talk to
patients about is obstructive sleep apnea.
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If you have obstructive sleep apnea,
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that can definitely increase your
risk of having high blood pressure.
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And when we diagnose obstructive
sleep apnea and treat it,
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we can expect that those blood
pressure numbers will come down.
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Risk factors for developing high blood
pressure are diabetes, older age,
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If you're younger and this is the first
time you're being diagnosed with elevated
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we as physicians think about
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even other causes that could
lead to it which are more rarer.
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Is it potentially like
an endocrine abnormality,
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meaning that you're releasing
too much hormones, for example.
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Or is it maybe a medication you're taking.
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example, female patients on birth control
pills can have elevated blood pressure.
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So that's something that we need
to kind of further look into.
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Having high blood pressure or
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having high cholesterol doesn't
mean you have heart disease.
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Those are risk factors for heart disease.
00:02:14,130 --> 00:02:17,100
It's like saying, someone had a drink and
then they went driving.
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It doesn't mean they're gonna crash,
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it increases the risk
that they're gonna crash.
00:02:20,150 --> 00:02:24,126
So it's important to know that these are
risk factors and these risk factors can
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be modified, and it can decrease the
likelihood that you'll have a bad outcome.
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About diabetes. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2018. (Accessed on January 31, 2021 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/Diabetes/AboutDiabetes/About-Diabetes_UCM_002032_Article.jsp#.Ws0jGJM-fVo.)
Health threats from high blood pressure. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 31, 2021 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/WhyBloodPressureMatters/Health-Threats-From-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002051_Article.jsp#.Ws0ZyJM-fVo.)
High blood pressure and women. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 31, 2021 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandSymptomsRisks/High-Blood-Pressure-and-Women_UCM_301867_Article.jsp#.Ws0kE5M-fVo.)
Know your risk factors for high blood pressure. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 31, 2021 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandSymptomsRisks/Know-Your-Risk-Factors-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp#.Ws0cd5M-fVo.)
Sodium and your health. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 31, 2021 at https://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium_and_your_health.)
Stamler J, Chan Q, Daviglus ML, Dyer AR, Van Horn L, Garside DB, et al. Relation of dietary sodium (salt) to blood pressure and its possible modulation by other dietary factors. Hypertension. 2018.