What Are the Risk Factors for Hypertension

What Are the Risk Factors for Hypertension

What Are the Risk Factors for Hypertension?

• Age. Aging can lead to hypertension. Aging is associated with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which hampers the production of nitric oxide in the endothelial layer of arterial vessels. Nitric oxide is the strongest vasodilator in the body. Insufficient nitric oxide production causes vasoconstriction and hypertension.

• Family and genetics. Having a parent or sibling with hypertension increases your risk of the disease. If both parents have hypertension, it increases your risk two- to fourfold. About 50% of hypertension is linked to genetics, while the other 50% is caused by environmental factors. Recent genomic research has shown that 13 gene polymorphic variants are linked to systolic pressure and an additional 20 gene polymorphic variants are linked to diastolic pressure.

• Obesity. Obesity raises blood pressure by activating blood pressure mediators, including renin, angiotensinogen, and aldosterone. In addition, obesity automatically raises blood pressure to cope with the increasing demand for blood supply due to the body's size.

• Lack of exercise. Lack of regular physical exercise is the main culprit of many chronic diseases, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure, depression, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer.

• Smoking. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals, some of which enter the bloodstream and injure the arterial wall, increasing the risk of hypertension. In addition, nicotine from cigarette smoke stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and raises blood pressure.

• Alcohol. Alcohol from alcoholic beverages induces hypertension by damaging pressure regulators, stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, and activating renin-angiotensin system functions. In addition, alcohol causes chronic inflammation, free radical–induced oxidative damage, and the hardening of the arterial wall, all of which are risk factors for hypertension.

• High salt. The kidneys are the major organs that regulate blood pressure in the body. When the blood level of sodium is too high, the kidneys reabsorb water and release it back into the bloodstream to dilute the sodium ion concentration. The excessive water in the bloodstream causes the expansion of blood volume, which exerts extra pressure on the arterial wall and induces hypertension. This is the reason habitual consumption of salty foods can lead to hypertension.

• Stress. Stress increases the risk of hypertension. To cope with stress, the body produces more corticoid and less prostaglandin. The former is a vasoconstrictor, and the latter is a vasodilator. Too much corticoid and not enough prostaglandin in the bloodstream lead to hypertension.

• Diabetes. Insulin resistance is common among patients with diabetes. Insulin in endothelial cells of the blood vessel can counter the action of vasoconstrictors. The lack of insulin in endothelial cells increases the risk of hypertension in patients with diabetes.