Anyone can get high blood pressure, but some people are at greater risk than others. Some of the risk factors include:
Age and gender
In both men and women, the risk for high blood pressure increases as one gets older. In fact, over half of seniors have high blood pressure. More men than women have high blood pressure until age 55. As they get older, the risk for women becomes higher than the risk for men.
African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than any other ethnic group. In fact, the prevalence of high blood pressure among African Americans is among the highest in the world. High blood pressure appears to be dangerously under treated in this group -- contributing to higher rates of stroke, death from heart disease, and kidney disease in African Americans.
People in the southeast have a higher incidence of high blood pressure and stroke than people in any other US region. The Southeast also has a higher rate of obesity, stress, anxiety, and depression.
High blood pressure may be inherited in many cases. A family history of heart disease is a major risk factor for high blood pressure in people younger than age 65.
Many people with high blood pressure are overweight. Even moderately overweight adults have double the risk of high blood pressure than people with normal weights. Children and adolescents who are overweight have an increased risk of getting high blood pressure by the time they reach adulthood.
People who are anxious or depressed may have greater risk for high blood pressure than those without these feelings. Studies confirm the association between stress and high blood pressure. Job stress and lack of career success seem linked to high blood pressure in both men and women.
Seasonal changes may influence variations in blood pressure, with high blood pressure increasing during cold months and declining during the summer, particularly in smokers. This may be because cold narrows blood vessels as a way to try to keep heat in the body. In addition, lack of light has also been associated with higher blood pressure.
Reviewed By: Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine,
Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor,
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