Modifiable and Relatively Fixed Risk Factors that Influence Blood Pressure

Several risk factors are associated with the development of hypertension:

  • Family History – parents or other immediate family members who have high blood pressure increase your patent’s risk. The AHA recommends monitoring blood pressure readings, identifying any changes.
  • Age – as U.S. adults age, the more likely blood pressure readings can increase. Blood vessels lose elastic quality which can increase blood pressure.
  • Gender-related risk patterns – until age 45, men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women. However, as women reach 65 years and older (after menopause) they are more likely to develop high blood pressure, due to loss of estrogen. However, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has not shown to lower blood pressure.
  • Race – Black patients tend to develop high blood pressure at a younger age and is more severe than White patients.
  • Overweight/obesity and lack of physical activity – weight gain places a strain in the heart and the circulatory system, increasing your patients’ risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
  • Unhealthy diet – high in calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sodium can contribute to weight gain and an increase in sodium blood levels.
  • Sleep apnea – correlated with lack of sleep and oxygen levels can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Drinking alcohol in excess – regular, heavy use of alcohol can contribute to cardiovascular disease, stroke, irregular heartbeats, and cancer to name a few conditions.
  • Tobacco use – current cigarette and secondhand smoking increases blood pressure temporarily and damages arteries.
  • Stress – contributes to behaviors that can exacerbate blood pressure such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, and the use of tobacco and alcohol products.

Left untreated, high blood pressure increases the load of the heart and arteries causing damage to the circulatory system over time, such as heart enlargement, atherosclerosis where the walls of the arteries become stiff and brittle as fatty deposits develop inside the artery walls. Untreated high blood pressure may lead to coronary heart disease, angina, myocardial infarction, stroke, kidney damage, peripheral artery disease, and heart failure. Recent statistics indicate 74% of U.S. adults who have congestive heart failure, 77% who have had a stroke, and 69% who have had a myocardial infarction had blood pressure readings over 140/90.