Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 1 in 4 adults here in the UK. That's an astonishing 16 million people. Furthermore, the British Heart Foundation estimates that as many as 7 million more people are living with undiagnosed hypertension. Unfortunately, symptoms of hypertension are quite rare, so many people don't even know that they have it. Therefore, it's important to know the causes of hypertension so that you can avoid them.
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 increase your risk. Today's article focuses solely on the causes of high blood pressure. To learn more about the condition, including the symptoms and treatments available, please read our in-depth guide.
Although the exact causes of hypertension are not clear, we know that there are several factors which can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Most of these causes are lifestyle-related. Therefore, if you're at risk, you can help to prevent hypertension by making a few important lifestyle changes. Here are the five most common causes of hypertension.
We all know that smoking is bad for your health and can cause several medical problems. The nicotine in cigarettes raises your blood pressure and heart rate, whilst also narrowing and hardening your arteries. This makes you more prone to hypertension, as well as 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 means that your heart will need to pump hard to supply your body with blood, increasing your risk of hypertension.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Obesity and Poor Diet
Being overweight makes you more likely to suffer from hypertension and coronary heart disease. The more excess weight you are carrying, the harder your heart needs to work in order to pump blood around your body.
If you're overweight, your diet is probably a contributing factor. There is a link between high blood pressure and a high-salt diet. 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 improve your diet, learn about the Eatwell Guide.
A Lack of Exercise
Regular exercise is incredibly important for good health. Lack of exercise is one of the causes of hypertension. Staying active will help you to maintain a healthy weight, while also helping to lower your blood pressure and keep your heart and blood vessels in good condition.
According to the NHS, adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. However, you don't need to do it all at once! You could do 30 minutes of exercise on at least five days a week, for example. If you're just getting started, walking and water aerobics are great exercises for beginners.
Alongside your moderate activity, you should also try to take part in some muscle-building activities. This can include weight training 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:
- People shouldn't 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 aim to have at least six hours of sleep each night. Long-term sleep deprivation can be a cause of hypertension. Sleep can help your blood to regulate stress hormones and keep your nervous system healthy.
More on Hypertension
If you'd like to learn more, you can read our in-depth guide to hypertension here. For a complete look at some of the common long-term health problems which can affect older people, see our top 20 article.
Personal Alarm Service
Our personal alarm service allows people living with long-term medical conditions to continue living confidently in their own home. In an emergency, all they need to do is press the red button on their pendant - which they can wear around their wrist or neck.
All of our alarm users are connected to our 24/7 Response Team, who respond to emergency alarm calls within seconds. They'll call for your emergency contacts and an ambulance if you require medical attention.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on 1st May 2022 to reflect current information.