For years scientists have been looking for the definitive causes of high blood pressure without success. Many factors can influence high blood pressure – salt, potassium, anxiety, hormone levels, etc. The problem is that heredity is such a wild card in attempting to determine any direct causal link between any one variable and high blood pressure. The obvious conclusion is that there are multiple causes of high blood pressure.
In almost 9 out of 10 cases of high blood pressure the causes of high blood pressure are not able to be traced and millions of people have been known to have high blood pressure for years and not even know it. High cholesterol readings and high blood pressure over years, when it goes untreated, can cause damage to your internal organs and can even develop into a fatal condition. Your risk of stroke, and even heart attack, are greatly increased with untreated high blood pressure. Of course, the bad thing is that, if you have it, often you will experience no signs of high blood pressure
Many people mistakenly believe that a low pulse rate and high blood pressure are incompatible. But they’re not. A low pulse rate can be caused by any number of things.
Reasons For High Blood Pressure
The medical profession divides high blood pressure into stages. If you have stage 1 high blood pressure, it means that your systolic pressure is in the range of 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg. Stage 2 high blood pressure is when you systolic blood pressure is above 160 mm Hg and your diastolic blood pressure is over 100 mm Hg. Both of these can partially be controlled by lifestyle changes.
So what are the causes of high blood pressure in the 1 out of 10 people that can be traced to a cause? Let’s take a look at just some of the causes of high blood pressure.
1) Heredity – If your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents had high blood pressure, there’s roughly a 25% chance of you eventually developing it as well. What’s not sure is how much of this 25% can be accurately attributed to genetics and how much can be attributed to environmental conditions.
After all, we know that dietary choices have a great effect on high blood pressure as well. And, if your parents have bad dietary habits that can cause a rise in blood pressure, it’s likely that the kids are picking up those same bad dietary habits. Therefore, if they develop hypertension, it can be hard to know if their hypertension is caused by heredity or diet.
2) Age – The longer we live, the greater chance we have of developing high blood pressure. If you were to chart the progression of hypertension and cross reference it with age, you will find that hypertension levels increase as age increases.
Because other factors have an effect on the persons health, the increase in hypertension levels occurs at different rates in various individuals. But, what causes this increase in hypertension. Researchers theorize that the increase is mainly due to peripheral vascular resistance in the body’s arterial system.
3) Sex – typically, women develop high blood pressure at a later stage of their lives than do men. In their early years, women are protected, to some extent, by their unique hormones, specifically estrogen. This changes after menopause, however.
When menopause occurs, the body doesn’t produce as much estrogen. As a result, women lose much of their protection. They lose so much, in fact, that once they reach menopause, they tend to develop hypertension at a greater rate than men.
4) Race – it is generally acknowledged that African Americans tend to have higher rates of hypertension than do other races. Some experts estimate that at least 40% of African Americans display hypertension to some degree.
However, new studies are currently in the works that may throw some doubt on the premise that race is the reason for the higher incidence of hypertension. For instance, if you look at Africans in their native country, the percentage of those with hypertension is on the low side.
Some of the newer studies are focusing on the theory that the higher incidences of high blood pressure among African Americans in the U.S., has more to do with stress caused by the history of discrimination than in some innate genetic reason. It will probably be years until the issue is resolved.
5) Smoking – This is somewhat controversial and inconclusive. In some cases, smokers will have high blood pressure, when tested by their doctors, and in other cases they will not. For a long time this has confused researchers.
Upon further testing, it was discovered that when someone lights up a cigarette, within 5 minutes, his blood pressure will rise dramatically. However, if after finishing the cigarette, he does not light up again, within a half hour his blood pressure returns to normal levels.
And this is why a smoker’s blood pressure may be different in a doctor’s office. Usually when you go in for a physical exam, the doctor does not take you in right away. You have to spend some time in the waiting room. And, then, you spend a bit more time in the examination room before the doctor walks in. The length of the total amount of time that you end up waiting is usually more than 30 minutes. So, even if you were smoking before arriving at the doctor’s office, by the time you are finally tested, you blood pressure has returned to normal.
What this means is that smoking does raise your blood pressure. But, unless there are other underlying circumstances, it is a temporary increase.
But why does cigarette smoking even cause a temporary increase in blood pressure? The answer lies in the nicotine. Nicotine causes the blood vessels to narrow. This makes it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body. And, hence, the blood pressure goes up.
6) Obesity – carrying excess weight has long been associated with hypertension. This is because when you are overweight, your heart has to work harder and beat faster which raises your blood pressure.
However, your risk factor for high blood pressure also depends on how you carry that extra weight. For example, is your body pear shaped or apple shaped? If apple shaped, meaning that the extra weight is mostly above the hips, you are at greater risk. If pear shaped, meaning that the extra weight is below the hips, you are not at as high of a risk.
7) Too much salt in the diet – It’s generally acknowledged that, as Americans, we eat entirely too much salt. This is mainly because of our over reliance on fast foods which have gradually been increasing the percentage of salt in their servings over the years.
People have different tolerances for salt. If your blood pressure noticeably goes up when you eat salt, you are said to be salt sensitive. In those who are salt sensitive, eating an excess amount of salt can cause your blood pressure to increase.
Blood pressure medicines can help if your hypertension is due to eating too much salt. But, it’s probably better for your overall health to simply cut down on the amount of salt in your diet.
8) High Stress – in many cases a person has no one in his family with high blood pressure, he eats in a healthy manner, he exercises regularly, and yet – he has high blood pressure.
In cases like this, many times the reason is stress. If you have a high stress occupation, live in a high stress marriage, or are having sever monetary problems, stress can sometimes cause your blood pressure to rise.
9) Lack of Exercise – if you don’t exercise, your muscles atrophy. One of these muscles is the heart which has the responsibility of pumping blood throughout the body. When you exercise, you strengthen this muscle. And, this makes it easier for your heart to pump blood.
Exercise also helps to keep the blood vessels flexible and wider. Both of these factors decrease the pressure on the walls of your arteries and blood vessels and help to keep your blood pressure low.
In fact, for those with only slight hypertension, one of the natural remedies for high blood pressure is simply to find a good aerobic exercise program that you can engage in on a regular basis.
There are other well known natural cures for high blood pressure as well, but exercise has the benefit of being good for you in a variety of other ways as well.
One of the newest theories about the causes of high blood pressure has to do with the brain. In 2007 a group of British research scientists released the results of an experiment they did to try and determine the causes of high blood pressure and they have determined that a defect in a protein located in the brain of lab rats caused the area of the brain that regulates blood pressure in the body to be blocked and this caused high blood pressure in the rats. While conditions of the heart certainly cannot be eliminated as potential causes of high blood pressure, it is fascinating to see scientific analysis that leads to the brain as a possible cause of high blood pressure as well.
Pregnancy – a Little Known Cause of High Blood Pressure
One of the more known causes of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, in women is called hypertension of pregnancy. Science has been able to link pregnancy to the development of hypertension in approximately 1 out of every 10 pregnant women. If untreated it can have devastating effects on the pregnancy and cause complications for the mother. It can, however, be treated and your doctor should be able to help prescribe a successful plan for dealing with hypertension of pregnancy. Usually, the hypertension treatment is only temporary. Unfortunately the doctor cannot help prevent the inevitable high blood pressure that kids can cause after they are born.
Another commonly known cause of high blood pressure is the narrowing, or widening, of the arteries surrounding the heart. These conditions require slightly more complicated tests to determine exactly what is going on and, in some cases, surgery may be required to correct the situation. What ever course of action your doctor recommends it is a good idea to listen to your doctor and learn how to lower high blood pressure.
Varying Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is not constant throughout the day. It changes from moment to moment. For example, when you wake up in the morning, your blood pressure is usually higher than normal. This is called morning high blood pressure. Similarly, after meals and during sports activities, your blood pressure usually rises as well.
When taking your blood pressure, it is important to take it under similar circumstances. And this is normally while sitting and relaxed.