Causes of High Blood Pressure - Hypertension
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
In 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure cases, the cause is unknown. In fact, you can have high
blood pressure for years without knowing it. That's why it's the “silent killer” When the cause is
unknown, you have what's called essential or primary hypertension. In the remaining 5% or less of
people with elevated blood pressure, a specific cause is known, and they are considered to have
"secondary hypertension." Examples of causes of secondary hypertension include kidney failure,
narrowing of the arteries to the kidneys, and various hormonal conditions.
These problems can usually be corrected. For example, doctors can repair a narrowed artery that
supplies blood to a kidney. Most of these problems can be ruled out by a careful history, a
physical examination and a few tests. Special tests are sometimes needed, but you don't usually
have to stay in the hospital.
Over 95% of people with elevated blood pressure have
"essential hypertension." This means that the specific cause of their hypertension is not known. It
is likely that both genetic (inherited) and environmental factors, such as your diet, play a role.
The ways that all of the contributing factors interact to elevate blood pressure are not
necessarily the same for each person. In addition, most of the genetic causes of hypertension are
still a matter of research. Therefore, for the time being, most patients with high blood pressure
are considered to have "essential hypertension."
Does Age Affect a
Person's Risk of Having Hypertension?
Hypertension, in particular the type that selectively
increases systolic blood pressure (the "top" number), becomes steadily more common with advancing
age. Older the patient, more will be the chances of hypertension
For the vast majority of hypertensive patients, there is no
one gene passed on (inherited) from parent to child that is responsible for high blood pressure.
More likely, there are many different genes that interact with each other and the environment to
produce high blood pressure. Therefore, inheritance predisposes a person to high blood pressure,
but hypertension might only occur with the addition of one or more environmental factors. But it is
possible that Hypertension may run in Families. So Family history is also significant of a
hypertensive patient addition, African Americans are more prone as a group to develop hypertension
and develop it at a younger age than those of other races or heritage.
Does a High Salt Diet
It has been known for a long time that societies with diets high in salt experience more
hypertension and the associated complications of heart attack, stroke, and organ damage. It is not
known, however, if increased salt is itself responsible for elevated blood pressure. It might be,
for example, that people from societies with increased salt intake may also have some other dietary
factors or an inherited factor that is responsible for their hypertension. Most physicians do not
believe that high salt intake alone causes hypertension, but they do believe it plays an important
role. The most likely explanation is that there are other environmental and genetic factors that
along with high salt intake all work together to cause hypertension. More salt you take, your
kidneys will retain more water inside body, resulting in increased blood pressure.
Does Alcohol Consumption
Cause High Blood Pressure?
Although the media has widely publicized the beneficial effects of alcohol on the heart, it must be
remembered that this applies only to moderate alcohol intake. People who have more than two drinks
per day are much more likely to have sustained elevations in blood pressure than nondrinkers.
Alcohol may therefore be an unrecognized cause of hypertension in a large number of moderate to
Does Obesity Cause
The reasons why obesity may lead to hypertension are not completely understood, but weight
reduction in obese patients definitely lowers blood pressure. The benefits of even a modest
reduction in weight are multiple: reduction or elimination of blood pressure medications,
improvement in cholesterol levels, and decreased risk of heart attack. Unfortunately, as many
patients can attest, weight reduction is easy to recommend but difficult to achieve and maintain. A
daily exercise program, a strong social support system, and initially modest goals for weight loss
are all required for long-term success.
Does Emotional Stress or Caffeine Cause High
Emotional stress, in the short term, can elevate the blood
pressure. However, it does not cause a persistent elevation in blood pressure and therefore does
not cause true hypertension with its associated consequences. Relaxation therapies and biofeedback
may offer other benefits, but they have not been shown to prevent the development of hypertension
or significantly lower blood pressure.
Similarly, caffeine may raise the blood pressure in the
short term (and should not be ingested immediately before a doctor checks your blood pressure).
However, tolerance to caffeine develops quickly, and any blood pressure elevation is not