10 Causes of High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

1. SALT: the more salt that we have in our bodies, the more water which enters the blood vessels (via osmosis) which increases your blood pressure.

2. POOR DIET: Salt isn’t the only part of your diet which is bad for your blood pressure, so are high fat and sugar diets. This causes the blood vessels to become blocked and narrower due to fat deposits (atherosclerosis) in the lining of the blood vessels.

3. NON-MODIFIABLE contributors:

  • Age: as we get older, our risk increases and our blood pressure naturally rises: particularly over 65 years.
  • Family History: your risk increases if your close relatives also have high blood pressure.
  • Ethnicity: Those of African or Caribbean descent are more at risk.
  • Gender: Men have increased risk than women for most of their lives. As you get >75, women’s risk is greater.

4. OBESITY: When you are overweight, it requires more pressure to move the blood around the body. If the weight gain is in the abdominal region, there is greater risk. Your blood vessels will become thick and stiff, which makes it harder for the heart to push blood through them. This can increase adrenaline production and salt retention which further increase blood pressure. There is also an association with diabetes, which will also increase your risk of getting high blood pressure.

5. LACK OF EXERCISE/ SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE: Regular exercise can decrease blood pressure. It makes your heart stronger, and therefore decreases how hard it has to work and how much pressure it puts on the blood vessel walls. Even small amount of exercise (including walking) can make a big difference.

6. DRUGS AND ALCOHOL

  • Alcohol is believed to have an effect on the central nervous system causing an increase in blood pressure.
  • Drugs: for example cocaine, amphetamines and crystal methamphetamine
  • Excess caffeine consumption.
  • Medicines: i.e. the combined oral contraceptive pill, and some decongestants (those that contain ephedrine) and herbal remedies (containing liquorice/ ginseng) and antidepressants.
  • These drugs and caffeine are stimulants and make the heart work harder thereby increasing blood pressure.

7. SLEEP/STRESS: Over time, a lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure. Get enough sleep is important factor for stress. Stress causes temporary increases in your blood pressure, and although there isn’t any evidence that it causes chronic hypertension this stress response can cause our bodies to react for days or weeks at a time.

8. EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS:

  • Hormonal disease i.e. Cushing’s syndrome or thyroid dysfunction.
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes

9. SLEEP APNOEA: This conditions means you get less oxygen during the night, and so your heart has to work harder leading to an increased blood pressure.

10. SMOKING: Smoking causes a temporary rise in blood pressure every time you smoke. It causes the arteries (blood vessels) to narrow and become blocked, this increases the work the heart has to do. It also causes the blood vessel walls to become harder, leading to heart disease and increasing your chance of stroke.

Key points and tips to help you lower your blood pressure:

– It is important to measure your blood pressure

– Reduce your salt and fat intake, be aware of these in your diet

– Increase your exercise and become more active

– Make an effort to keep to a healthy weight

– Reduce your intake of alcohol and caffeine-based drinks.

– Stop smoking (https://www.nhs.uk/livewell/smoking/Pages/stopsmokingnewhome.aspx)

– It is important to have a good sleep pattern, and have a good number of hours of sleep (6-8 minimum)

– If you have existing disease which impact your blood pressure, make sure these are well controlled. See your Doctor if you are concerned.

Look after yourself! Make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk of complications.

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