High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a long-term condition in which the pressure in the arteries remains continuously elevated. This condition, if not identified and treated over a long period, can cause many long-term health issues.
You may have already seen our guide to the 20 Most Common Medical Conditions Affecting Older People. This article will focus on the common causes of high blood pressure. To learn more about the overall condition you can read our in-depth guide, which contains all of the general details and facts about hypertension.
Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
While many things can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, in what's predicted to be around 90-95% of cases, the exact cause is often unknown. However, there are a wide range of contributing risk factors, many of these are lifestyle choices, but some are genetic issues we can't control, these include:
- Family History - High blood pressure often runs in families.
- Age - As you get older the risk of developing the condition increases.
- Ethnic Origin - People of African Caribbean and South Asian descent may also be at higher risk.
Other Medical Conditions and Medications
According to the NHS, in around one in 20 cases you may develop high blood pressure as a result of another existing medical condition. Sometimes you may also acquire high blood pressure as a side effect of the medications you take.
Chronic kidney disease, heart disease, hormone problems, diabetes, and lupus, are among some of the most common conditions which can contribute to high blood pressure. According to the British Heart Foundation, if you have a condition like this, your blood pressure should be closely monitored, and it is usually recommended that it should be below 130/80mmHg.
Your blood pressure could also increase as a side effect of some medication such as:
- Combined contraceptive pill.
- Steroid medications.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen.
- Recreational drugs.
- Some over the counter medications like certain cough and cold remedies.
If you believe that any medication you are taking may be causing increased blood pressure, then you should consult your GP. In most cases, your blood pressure should return to normal once you cease taking the medication. However, this should happen under the supervision of your GP.
While your blood pressure may be increased simply due to your genetics, there are contributing lifestyle choices that may also increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, such as:
Eating too Much Salt
A high salt diet is related to high blood pressure as the increased sodium content in the body can disrupt the natural balance causing fluid retention. In turn, this can raise blood pressure by increasing the pressure exerted against the blood vessels walls. Many people may be eating excess salt without even realising it!
This risk factor is something you can quickly get under control by just lowering your salt intake! The NHS recommends that you should try to reduce your salt intake to less than 6g per day. Make sure to watch out for hidden salt in processed foods!
Lack of Physical Activity and Weight
There is thought to be a significant link between increased weight and high blood pressure due to the increased strain being overweight can put on your heart. Being overweight often stems from an unhealthy diet, especially a diet high in saturated fats, which can additionally contribute to high blood pressure.
This links to a lack of physical exercise, people who are active generally have a lower heart rate which is very beneficial for keeping your heart healthy. High blood pressure puts extra strain on the heart; therefore, it is vital to ensure your heart stays healthy. Losing some weight to achieve a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) ultimately will alleviate these issues and could help your blood pressure to return to a reasonable level.
Eating a healthier diet can assist with this. Another critical element is to move more! We should all try to be more active.
Smoking tobacco can cause damage to your body over time. In particular, it can cause your arteries to narrow and harden which can not only affect your blood pressure but also cause long-term damage to your heart. This is due to the different components of a cigarette including nicotine, which make your heart work harder while the carbon monoxide prevents your blood from carrying as much oxygen.
Cutting down on this is very important for assisting with high blood pressure but it's also crucial to your heart's health. Not convinced? Find out 10 reasons why you should stop smoking.
Drinking alcohol to excess over time can result in damage to your heart which may cause strain to your cardiovascular system — drinking more alcohol than recommended can also raise your blood pressure. Therefore, it is imperative to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume if it is reaching an excessive level. Not only can excess alcohol cause these issues but it is also generally high in calories and therefore contradictory to a healthy diet and optimal BMI.
Make a Change
Although, in basic terms, high blood pressure is a result of the increased pressure of your blood pushing against the artery walls. The risk of this is heightened by all of the things we have listed above. In most cases, it will be a combination of these factors.
By making some of these healthy lifestyle changes, you could notice a shift in your blood pressure in as little as a few weeks. Don't forget though, that in some cases it may take longer to see the benefits. Sometimes high blood pressure can be controlled purely by simple lifestyle changes. In other cases, a combination of lifestyle changes and medication will be required to control your blood pressure. Your GP will be able to advise you on which option is best for you.
Personal Alarm Information
If you have high blood pressure or any long-term medical condition, having a personal alarm in your home may be advisable. The system connects you to our highly-trained, 24-hour Response Team and only requires you to press a button around your wrist or neck.
Learn more about our alarms in our in-depth guide, or please speak to our friendly advisers on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.