There are three major risk factors for high blood pressure that you can't control. They are:
- Age. Your risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older.
- Sex. In young adulthood and early middle age, high blood pressure is more common in men than in women, but the opposite is true for men and women age 60 and older.
- Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.
The risk factors you can control or manage include:
- Obesity. The greater body mass you have, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. The volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases and creates extra force on your artery walls. In addition, fat cells produce chemicals that circulate and affect your blood vessels and heart.
- Lack of physical activity. Lack of physical activity increases your risk of high blood pressure by increasing your risk of being overweight. Inactive people also tend to have higher heart rates. Their heart muscles have to work harder with each contraction, increasing the force on the arteries.
- Tobacco use. The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls, causing the arteries to accumulate fatty deposits that contain cholesterol (plaques). Nicotine also constricts your blood vessels and forces your heart to work harder.
- Salt intake. More salt intake increased blood pressure because salt travels through the body it draws fluid out of the blood vessels, which in turn increases blood pressure.
- Low potassium intake. Potassium is a mineral that helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don't consume or retain enough potassium, you can accumulate too much sodium.
- Too Much alcohol. Exactly how or why alcohol increases blood pressure isn't understood. But over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart muscle.
- Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary but dramatic increase in blood pressure. Stress also can promote high blood pressure if you then try to relax by eating more, using more nicotine or drinking more alcohol.
You may also be at increased risk of high blood pressure if you have certain chronic conditions. Examples include high blood cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea.
In general, high blood pressure in children is uncommon. However, as an increasing number of children become less physically active and more obese, a greater percentage of them are developing high blood pressure.