A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop hypertension with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing hypertension. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Blood vessels lose flexibility as you get older, which makes it easier to develop hypertension. Although hypertension can develop at any age, risk begins to increase after 35 years of age. Hypertension is most common in people aged 65 years and older.
Men are generally at greater risk for hypertension than pre-menopausal women, but women's risk increases and is slightly greater than that of a man after menopause.
African-Americans tend to have higher rates of hypertension, develop it earlier, and have more severe hypertension.
Other risk factors include:
Hypertension can be common in some families. If you have close relatives (parents, grandparents, siblings) with hypertension, you may be at increased risk of hypertension.
Certain medical conditions affect the health of blood vessels, impair circulation, and make the heart work harder to circulate blood. Over time these conditions can lead to hypertension. Some conditions contribute to hypertension slowly, over a long period of time. These conditions include:
Other conditions can create a more rapid increase in blood pressure. These include:
Pre-eclampsia is an increase in blood pressure during pregnancy. In most cases, blood pressure normalizes after the baby's birth. However, having a history of preeclampsia increases your risk of developing hypertension.
Some medications cause blood vessels to constrict, which makes your blood pressure rise. Over time, this increases your risk of hypertension. Some of these include:
Jolly S1, Vittinghoff E, et al. Higher cardiovascular disease prevalence and mortality among younger blacks compared to whites. Am J Med. 2010; 123(9):811-818.
Risk factors for hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 4, 2014. Accessed February 26, 2014.
Understand your risk for high blood pressure. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandYourRiskforHighBloodPressure/Understand-Your-Risk-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp. Updated September 3, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.
Who is at risk for high blood pressure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/atrisk.html. Updated August 2, 2012. Accessed February 26, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.