High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” for a reason: there are hardly any symptoms until the heart attack it caused kills you. Roughly half of the American adult population suffers from high blood pressure but a third of them don’t know it.
Considering it’s one of the best predictors of death that there are, the fact that over 100 million Americans have hypertension (the scientific name for high blood pressure) should be very concerning to everybody. Public awareness of what causes high blood pressure has increased significantly in the last 40 years but there is still a great deal of ignorance about a very dangerous condition.
But What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are a number of causes for hypertension and – good news for everybody – most of them are easily treatable.
Obesity is related to a higher risk of hypertension and can make treating the causes more difficult. The risk of dying of heart disease isn’t raised significantly if you are obese unless you also have hypertension. The combination is especially dangerous when combined with diabetes.
The risks are complex and best understood in consultation with your doctor, who can advise a course of treatment to help reduce your risk.
Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and an improved diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber will have a significant effect on your risk of high blood pressure related conditions. There are weight-loss medications and surgeries available but carry high risks of side effects and complications.
A diet that has a lot of salt, sugar, and fat is strongly linked to developing hypertension. The recommended daily allowances set by the government give guidance on how much you should be consuming in order to maintain a healthy weight, heart and blood pressure. Sodium intake from salt is especially significant for blood pressure and is present in everything from dissolvable tablets to baby food. By reducing salt intake, you’re dealing with what causes high blood pressure in many. The same is true for sugar and saturated fats.
Smoking cigarettes is an all-around bad thing to do, not only raising your risk of hypertension hugely but causing cancer and heart diseases at the same time. By quitting smoking you can reduce your blood pressure significantly in as little as 20 minutes and the long-term benefits are massive, with blood pressure returning to a relatively normal level within weeks or months.
Smoking causes the heart rate to increase and blood pressure to rise, as well as hardening artery walls and clogging them with cholesterol. This reduces the blood flow a perfect recipe for heart disease. After quitting smoking for several years, your risk of dying from a heart attack can have halved.
There is a lot of support for quitting smoking. Medications, nicotine patches and gum, therapy and more are available for free from the government or public health bodies. It is a very difficult process and should be done in consultation with your doctor, who can direct you to the most successful therapies for you.
A lack of daily exercise can be a killer. With Americans walking less and less, they are increasing their risk of hypertension and all the complications that come with it. Regular exercise is one of the easiest and most effective methods of reducing hypertension.
Aerobic exercise is especially recommended as it has a very strong effect on the circulatory system. Your heart is a muscle and needs exercise like the rest of you. The benefits of regular exercise are multiple and well known: it improves mood, gut health, strength and reduces the chances of developing all manner of cardiovascular diseases.
Even walking more can help. A stand-up desk at work or a couple of times taking the dog around the block can have a marked effect on your blood pressure. Swimming, running, active games and dancing are all fantastic ways of keeping your heart healthy.
Drinking over the recommended daily allowance of alcohol is related to a significantly higher risk of developing hypertension. By cutting down alcohol consumption, you cut down your risk of dying of a heart attack or suffering the complications of heart disease. Even better is cutting alcohol altogether, a known route to a healthier body and mind.
There is help from the government for helping with alcohol-related issues, consult your doctor for more advice and help.
People who have diabetes have a much higher risk of hypertension and obesity. This is especially concerning as the combination of all three raises mortality rates enormously. While diabetes can be managed successfully most of the time, when combined with hypertension and obesity, treatments are less effective.
For help with controlling diabetes and the associated conditions, you can consult your doctor for effective treatments. Losing weight, stopping smoking, not drinking alcohol and exercising regularly all contribute to an easier to control diabetic condition.
If you keep your diabetes under control, you have a better chance of not developing hypertension, so it is worth looking into.
When a doctor is looking for what causes high blood pressure in a patient, they will ask about the family history of that individual. If someone has a family member with high blood pressure or heart disease, they are themselves much more likely to develop the condition.
There are a number of genes that have been found to be related to hypertension, but the mechanism for how they affect blood pressure is not understood and there are no treatments available yet. However, the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can help with the symptoms of high blood pressure.