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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Causes of High Blood Pressure

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What Causes High Blood Pressure? continued...

Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.

The majority of all people with high blood pressure are "salt sensitive," meaning that anything more than the minimal bodily need for salt is too much for them and increases their blood pressure. Other factors that can raise the risk of having essential hypertension include obesity; diabetes; stress; insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium; lack of physical activity; and chronic alcohol consumption.

Secondary Hypertension

When a direct cause for high blood pressure can be identified, the condition is described as secondary hypertension. Among the known causes of secondary hypertension, kidney disease ranks highest. Hypertension can also be triggered by tumors or other abnormalities that cause the adrenal glands (small glands that sit atop the kidneys) to secrete excess amounts of the hormones that elevate blood pressure. Birth control pills -- specifically those containing estrogen -- and pregnancy can boost blood pressure, as can medications that constrict blood vessels.

Who Is More Likely to Develop High Blood Pressure?

  • People with family members who have high blood pressure
  • Smokers
  • African-Americans
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who take birth control pills
  • People over the age of 35
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People who are not active
  • People who drink alcohol excessively
  • People who eat too many fatty foods or foods with too much salt
  • People who have sleep apnea



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC on June 01, 2015
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