Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one in four adults here in the UK. That’s an astonishing 16 million people, with the British Heart Foundation suggesting that as many as seven million more people are living with un-diagnosed hypertension.
If you’re unaware, hypertension is a long-term medical condition where the blood pressure in the arteries is constantly elevated. It’s more common in older people, whilst genetics and family history can also affect the risk. Today’s article focuses solely on the causes of high blood pressure. To learn more about the condition, such as the symptoms and treatment available, please read our in-depth guide.
Although the exact cause of hypertension is not known, there are several contributing causes of high blood pressure. Most of these causes are lifestyle related and therefore you can lower the risk by making some changes. Here are the five most common causes of hypertension.
We all know that smoking is bad for your body and can cause several medical problems. With regards to hypertension, the nicotine in cigarettes raises your blood pressure and heart rate, whilst also narrowing and hardening your arteries. This makes you more prone to blood clots, angina, a heart attack or a stroke.
The nicotine also makes your heart work much, much harder, whilst the carbon monoxide will reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood. This again means that your heart will need to pump hard to supply your body with blood.
Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart’s health.
Obesity and Poor Diet
Overweight and obese people are more likely to suffer from hypertension and therefore coronary heart disease. The more you weigh, the harder your heart needs to work in order to pump blood around your body.
If you’re overweight, it’s likely that you’re on a bad diet plan. Eating too much salt has been linked to an increase in blood pressure. You should be aiming to eat less than six grams of salt each day, including salt that’s contained within ready made foods such as bread and salt that you add during cooking or at the table.
To help turn your diet around, learn about the Eatwell Guide.
A Lack of Exercise
Another factor in being overweight, and therefore at risk of hypertension, is not exercising enough. Not only does exercising help you to lose weight, it also helps to lower your blood pressure and keep your heart and blood vessels in good condition.
Adults need to be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. This can be done by simply doing 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days a week, with examples including walking and water aerobics.
Alongside your moderate activity, you should also try to take part in some muscle-building activities. This can include weight training at the gym, or resistance exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups.
Learn more by reading our article on the top 7 sport and fitness activities for older people.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause a number of health problems. Going over the recommended limits can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Here are the guidelines:
- Men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week.
- You should have several alcohol-free days each week.
Alcohol is also high in calories, which can lead to weight gain and high blood pressure.
A Lack of Sleep
You should always aim to try and have at least six hours of sleep each night. Long-term sleep deprivation has been linked with a rise in blood pressure. It has been said that sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system to remain healthy.
More on Hypertension
As previously mentioned in this post, if you’d like to learn more about this condition you can read our in-depth guide. For a complete look at some of the common long-term health problems which can affect older people, see our top 20 article.
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