The precise cause of most cases of high blood pressure is seldom known. High blood pressure that cannot be directly attributed to any single cause is otherwise known as essential hypertension. The great majority of people diagnosed with high blood pressure have this form of hypertension.
Risk Factors Rather Than “Causes”
While it may not be possible to identify a direct cause in most cases, certain factors are well known to be associated with the risk of developing high blood pressure. These risk factors include being overweight or obese, smoking, being sedentary (sitting too much/not moving enough), excess salt in the diet, unresolved stress, advanced age, family history (genetics), chronic kidney disease, certain adrenal or thyroid disorders, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Among these factors, lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking, and being overweight are perhaps the most common culprits. They are also the factors most likely to be under your direct control. For instance, while it certainly may not be easy, you have the choice—and the ability—to quit smoking. Some of these factors are not within your control, however. No one has yet discovered a way to reverse the inevitable progression of time (aging), for instance, and genetic factors are out of our control.
Control is Within Your Grasp
But you can make the choice to be as active as possible throughout the day. You can take steps to improve your body weight if excess weight becomes a problem. And you can alter your diet to slash salt (assuming you are “salt sensitive*”) while adding more healthful foods to your daily diet. Think whole plant foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables, colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
Research suggests that cutting your consumption of sweetened—as well as artificially-sweetened—beverages may have a significant impact on your risk of developing high blood pressure. So banishing soft drinks from your diet may be an excellent place to start if you are among the many Americans who drink sodas every day.
It’s interesting to note that many of these factors appear to be interrelated. Poor diet and lack of exercise are inevitably linked to obesity and being overweight. Obesity is also often a precipitating factor in the development of sleep apnea; another condition associated with high blood pressure. Altering one of these modifiable factors usually involves making positive changes to other related factors. People who cut soft drinks out of their diet often experience a certain amount of weight loss, in addition to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure, for instance.
Engaging in daily exercise, including both aerobic and resistance forms (e.g. lifting weights), is highly beneficial. But exercise needn’t be complicated. Simply walking about 15,000 steps per day has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. In essence, unless you are the victim of unfortunate genetics, or suffer from an adrenal or thyroid disorder, you can take steps to control your blood pressure.
*Salt sensitivity is a term that refers to people whose blood pressure appears to rise with rising intake of table salt. Not everyone is affected in this way, but most people with essential hypertension are, in fact, salt sensitive. Therefore, for these individuals, cutting salt in the diet makes good sense.
Eating healthy and exercise will help you take control of your life. We also encourage you to monitor your own blood pressure with Omron Blood Pressure Monitors, the leading manufacturer of blood pressure monitors for 40 years.