Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Hypertension

An Unhealthy Diet Can Raise Your Blood Pressure Diet plays an important role in managing blood pressure. Eating an unhealthy diet increases your risk for hypertension… Aisha Abdullah - May 26, 2023
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An Unhealthy Diet Can Raise Your Blood Pressure

Diet plays an important role in managing blood pressure. Eating an unhealthy diet increases your risk for hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was developed to help people with hypertension reduce their blood pressure. The diet is also beneficial for people at risk of developing hypertension by keeping their blood pressure in check. DASH limits consumption of saturated and trans fat, red meat, sodium, and added sugar, which have all been linked to a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. In addition, the diet is high in nutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium that help regulate blood pressure. Fiber and protein are also important staples in the diet. Any diets to prevent or treat high blood should include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and healthy, nuts and legumes, and unsaturated fats.

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Inactivity Increases Your Risk of High Blood Pressure by 50 Percent

Having a sedentary or inactive lifestyle is very bad for your heart and overall health. People who are inactive have up to 50 percent higher risk of developing hypertension than those who are active. When you’re physically active, your blood vessels dilate or widen. This keeps them strong and flexible, making it easier for blood to flow through your body and reducing the risk of damage. Regular exercise has been shown to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. And it doesn’t take much. Just 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity daily can do wonders for your blood pressure. That may include walking, running, swimming, dancing, yoga—anything that gets you moving and your heart pumping can help you keep hypertension at bay.


Kidney Disease Can Lead to Hypertension and Vice Versa

Like diabetes, kidney disease is closely linked to high blood pressure. The kidneys are the body’s filtration system, removing waste from the body in the form of urine. One of the kidney’s main functions is keeping body fluids balanced, which helps regulate blood pressure. When the kidney isn’t functioning, such as in chronic kidney disease, blood pressure may decrease as a result of increased fluid. Hypertension is also one of the leading of kidney disease. High blood pressure can restrict blood flow to the kidneys, making it harder for the organ to function. The blood pressure increases as fluid builds up in the body, further restricting blood flow. Over time, this leads to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. Managing blood pressure can help alleviate the effects of kidney disease.

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Half of People With Hypertension Have Sleep Apnea

​​Sleep apnea is one of the most well-established risk factors for hypertension. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that causes pauses in breathing during sleep due to restriction of the airways. The most obvious symptom of sleep apnea is snoring, but the condition can lead to serious health issues. When you sleep, your blood pressure naturally decreases as your body rests. This drop in blood pressure is significantly less in people with obstructive sleep apnea. Even after waking, people with the condition experience higher than normal blood pressure. In fact, 30 to 40 percent of people with hypertension also have obstructive sleep apnea. One theory of why sleep apnea may increase blood pressure is that it overstimulates the part of our nervous system that regulates involuntary actions like breathing, heart rate, and opening of blood vessels.

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Heavy Drinking and Smoking Put You at Risk For Hypertension

People who drink heavily are up to twice as likely to develop hypertension. Heavy drinking is usually defined as two or more alcoholic drinks a day. The more a person drinks, the higher their risk is. And yes, that includes red wine, which is often considered to be heart-healthy. Like most things, alcohol is best in moderation. Reducing alcohol consumption is one of the first things doctors recommend for people who have or are at high risk for high blood pressure. The relationship between smoking and hypertension is not as clear-cut. Smoking causes a temporary spike in blood pressure, but it’s unclear if the habit increases long-term hypertension risk. However, cigarette smoke is associated with plaque build-up in the arteries, a condition associated with high blood pressure. There’s no question that quitting smoking and not drinking excessively are beneficial to your cardiovascular health.


Loneliness Can Be Dangerous to Your Blood Pressure

Being socially isolated isn’t just bad for your mental health; it can also harm your cardiovascular health. One study found that women with little to no social support network had 15 percent more likely to have high blood pressure. Women who didn’t participate in regular social activities had a 30 percent higher risk. Interestingly, the study didn’t find a similar link between socializing and hypertension in men. However, other research suggests that loneliness is closely associated with high blood pressure in older adults, regardless of gender. Some studies have even found that social isolation can increase the risk of hypertension-related disease as much as smoking. In addition, loneliness is associated with a shorter life expectancy, at least partially due to the increased risk of chronic diseases. So, do your heart and mind a favor and spend time with family and friends.


Too Much Sugar Puts You at Risk for Hypertension

When people think of hypertension risk factors, salt is usually the number one suspect—with good reason. High-sodium diets have long been considered a major contributor to high blood pressure. Most hypertension diets dramatically reduce salt intake. Salt in the blood helps regulate the amount of fluid in the body. Too much salt can through off that balance, causing an increase in blood pressure. There’s no doubt that cutting salt is good for hypertension. But it turns out that another white crystal on your kitchen table may be just as, if not more, important for managing blood pressure. Recent studies have found a link between high sugar consumption and high blood pressure. Diets high in sugar are also associated with a 3-fold increase in cardiovascular disease risk.

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Vitamin D Deficiency May Make You Vulnerable to Hypertension

Vitamin D is most well-known as vital to bone health by helping the body absorb calcium. However, the nutrient may also play an important role in the health of the blood vessels. Research suggests that people with vitamin D deficiency have an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. So, making sure that you get enough vitamin D is an important part of maintaining overall health, especially as you age. But that doesn’t mean you need to take vitamin D supplements to prevent hypertension. In fact, there’s little evidence that the supplement can help prevent or treat the condition, and taking too much can cause serious health issues. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. It costs nothing, and only around 10 minutes a day is needed. You can also get the vitamin through your diet by eating foods rich in nutrients, such as fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms. Some foods, including milk, cereal, and orange juice, are also fortified with vitamin D.

Thyroid Problems Can Impact Blood Pressure

The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate many vital body functions, including breathing, heart, digestion, and growth. Unsurprisingly, the thyroid also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. One hormone produced by the thyroid controls the dilation, or relaxation of arteries, which impacts blood pressure. The gland also supports the normal function of the kidney and heart, both of which closely affect blood pressure. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. This can cause hypertension by weakening heart muscles, causing kidney dysfunction, or increasing the rigidity of the blood vessels. The production of excessive thyroid hormone, or hypertension, can also lead to hypertension by overexerting heart muscles.

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High Blood Pressure Is a Side Effect of Certain Medications and Supplements

Many common medications and supplements can raise blood pressure and increase your hypertension risk. Studies show that the two most common over-the-counter pain relievers, NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen) and acetaminophen (also called paracetamol), can raise blood pressure. Some cough and cold medicines may have the same effect. Certain medications to treat depression, anxiety, and ADHD can cause spikes in blood pressure, as can some hormonal birth control. Herbal supplements, including ginseng, licorice root, and guarana, may also increase blood pressure. Like conventional medicines, these supplements shouldn’t be taken without consulting a doctor, especially if you have or are at risk of hypertension.

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Early Air Pollution Can Trigger High Blood Pressure Later in Life

Exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased risk for hypertension. One recent study found that people who live in areas with moderate to high levels of air pollution had an increased incidence of hypertension. Another study found that exposure to air pollution in childhood increases a person’s risk of developing hypertension later in life. Being constantly exposed to pollutants in the air takes a toll on the blood vessels, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, dementia and cardiovascular disease. Most people are exposed to some level of air pollution on a daily basis. One way to reduce exposure is to monitor air quality and avoid going outside without a high-quality mask when air pollution is high.


Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

Heart – Why High Blood Pressure is a “Silent Killer”

Mayoclinic – Hypertensive crisis: What are the symptoms?

Health Central – High Blood Pressure Unusual Symptoms: Could What You Feel Be More Serious?

AARP – 12 Surprising Things That Can Raise Your Blood Pressure

Cleveland Heart Lab – 4 Surprising Causes of High Blood Pressure

Very Well Health – Hypertension: Symptoms, Complications, When to Get Help

Good Rx – These 10 Medications Can Raise Your Blood Pressure

Mayoclinic – DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure