High blood pressure – are you at risk?

High blood pressure – are you at risk?

Hypertension Centre

High blood pressure – are you at risk?

High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common among all groups in Western societies. Ignoring the warning signs that you are at risk may prove to be fatal.

Early warning signs

Hypertension is a very common medical disorder that often has severe consequences such as fatal heart attacks. Fortunately, some of the things (risk factors) that may contribute to an individual’s chance of developing high blood pressure are well known and some may even be prevented. It makes sense to assess your own risk before it’s too late. Heeding early warning signs will give you and your doctor time to make the right diagnosis and start treatment before things get out of hand!

Six common risk factors

1. Age

The odds of developing high blood pressure increase with age. During early middle age (45 plus) high blood pressure is more common in men while women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after the age of 65.

2. Gender

Young women are less likely to develop high blood pressure than men. This risk evens out in later life. A worrying trend is that more women than expected are now having heart attacks. Statistically, however, women are still less likely to develop high blood pressure and heart attacks.

3. Family history

High blood pressure tends to run in families and this places you at a higher risk than those without a family history of hypertension. It is, however, also true that there may be other factors such as poor lifestyle habits that run riot in your family and these can be changed and the risk thus controlled.

4. Race or ethnicity

For some strange reason high blood pressure is particularly common among black people and often develops at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications (stroke, heart attack and kidney failure) are also more common in black people.

5. Being obese or overweight

The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.

6. Poor lifestyle habits

  • People who are physically inactive and do not exercise tend to have higher heart rates. High heart rates put pressure on your heart, make it work harder with each contraction and also increase the force on your arteries. Being inactive also elevates your risk of putting on weight, especially around your stomach − a known hypertension and heart attack risk.
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raises your blood pressure. The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, causing your blood pressure to rise. The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls, cause your arteries to narrow and increase your blood pressure.
  • Too much salt (sodium) in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid and may increase your blood pressure. Elevated blood-lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood), often due to bad eating habits, are also associated with an increased risk of hypertension.
  • Too little vitamin D attained through your diet or through exposure to sunlight may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that affects your blood pressure. Your kidneys are very important regulators of long term blood pressure. Dark-skinned people are more at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
  • Heavy drinking can affect your blood pressure and damage your heart. For healthy adults, drinking in moderation means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65 and up to two drinks a day for men aged 65 and younger.
  • High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure.


High blood pressure (hypertension). Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/risk-factors/con-20019580
Weber, C. 2016. Top ten high blood pressure risk factors. Retrieved from: https://www.verywell.com/diabetics-and-high-blood-pressure-1763934