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Risk Factors for Hypertension


Animation Movie Available 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 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 October 2, 2018.

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.

Overview of hypertension. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/hypertension/overview-of-hypertension. Updated February 2018. Accessed October 2, 2018.

Risk factors for hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T903094/Risk-factors-for-hypertension. Updated November 7, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2018.

Understand your risk for high blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 15, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2018.



Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 10/2/2018

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