Risk Factors for Hypertension

Related Media: Controlling Your High Blood Pressure

A risk factor makes the chances of getting a disease or condition higher. You can have hypertension with or without any of those listed below. But the more risks you have, the higher your chances. Talk to your doctor about the steps you need to take to lower your risk.

Hypertension can start at any age. But your risk goes higher as you get older. This is because blood vessels become more rigid over time. Your chances get higher after 35 years of age. But hypertension is most common in people aged 65 years and older.

For the most part, men are at a greater risk for hypertension than women who haven't been through menopause. But after, the risk for women goes up to slightly higher than men.

People who are Black have higher rates of hypertension. It also happens earlier and can be more serious.

Your chances may also be higher for:


Hypertension tends to run in families. If your parents, grandparents, and siblings have or had it, this raises your risk.


  • Smoking—Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow. This makes your BP higher. Smoking is something that's done more than once. Over time, it damages blood vessels.
  • Salt intake—Too much salt causes the body to hold onto water. The fluid moves through the bloodstream. It causes more pressure on the walls of the arteries.
  • Alcohol intake—Alcohol causes problems with nervous system and blood vessels. This causes your BP to go up.
  • Lack of exercise—Not getting exercise is linked to other unhealthy habits such as eating poorly or gaining weight. These can influence your BP risk.
  • Stress—Hormones released by your body when you are under stress can raise your BP. This may be more of a problem for people who have a high risk for hypertension.

Medical Conditions

Certain health problems can make it harder for the blood to move through the body. This makes the heart work harder to pump blood. Over time, this can lead to hypertension. Some of these are:

  • Obesity
  • Glucose intolerance or diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome—A problem that causes raised BP, cholesterol, blood glucose, and weight. If weight is centered around the midsection, it's more of a problem.
  • Sleep apnea—Breathing stops for brief periods of time while you are sleeping.
  • Kidney disease
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Panic disorder

Preeclampsia is a rise in BP while you’re pregnant. In most cases, BP comes down after the baby's birth. But having had it does make the risk of getting hypertension higher.

Certain Medicines

Some medicines cause blood vessels to narrow, which makes your BP rise. Over time, this makes your risk of hypertension higher. Some of these are:

  • Birth control pills—This is more common if you:
    • Have a family history
    • Have kidney disease
    • Are overweight
    • Had preeclampsia
  • Other medicines—Certain medicines make your risk higher, or they can make the medicines you take to lower your BP not work as they should. These may be:
    • Steroids
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen
    • Decongestants
    • Diet pills
    • Antidepressants


High blood pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-pressure. Accessed September 15, 2020.
Jolly S, Vittinghoff E, Chattopadhyay A, Bibbins-Domingo K. Higher cardiovascular disease prevalence and mortality among younger blacks compared to whites. Am J Med. 2010; 123(9):811-818.
Risk factors for hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Accessed September 15, 2020.
Understand your risk for high blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 15, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 11/20/2020

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.