What causes high blood pressure?

Take a look at the biological and lifestyle factors that lead to high blood pressure

High blood pressure is a common health issue that affects more than a billion people all over the world. Blood pressure is the pressure in our blood vessels when our heart pumps blood all over the body. Over time, there are changes in the blood vessel structure, which either leads to an increase or a decrease in blood vessel diameter. High blood pressure can cause extreme strain on the nervous, cardiac and renal system increasing the risk of death three-fold.

Types of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is divided into two groups – primary and secondary high blood pressure. Primary high blood pressure emerges on its own and is not linked with any other disease. It is also referred to as essential hypertension. Secondary high blood pressure occurs as a consequence of an underlying illness. For example, patients with kidney disease or heart disease will suffer from high blood pressure unnecessarily. In secondary high blood pressure, treating the underlying condition often takes care of the problem underneath.

Change in Vascular Resistance – A Common Cause

A complex control system maintains the resistance levels and diameters of blood vessels in the body. Through nerve inputs, proteins and hormones, these vascular characteristics are kept in check. Any alteration of responsible factors can cause an increase in vascular resistance, which can, in turn, cause high blood pressure.

Diseases Responsible for High Blood Pressure

Secondary high blood pressure occurs due to the presence of underlying diseases. These diseases include, but are not limited to, chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnoea and Cushing’s syndrome. A proper clinical history and a physical exam can help physicians understand the nature of high blood pressure, and treat the underlying condition accordingly.

Drugs Responsible for High Blood Pressure

A lot of medicines cause retention of sodium and water levels in the body, which leads to an increase in blood pressure. These medicines include NSAIDs, anti-inflammatory steroids, oral combination pills, nasal decongestants, antidepressants and stimulatory medications. Before buying any of these medications, it is important to seek medical advice or inform your pharmacist about your high blood pressure levels.

Obesity and High Blood Pressure

Obesity is a global pandemic that serves as a significant risk factor for high blood pressure. A sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits can make a person obese. Because the body increases in size, the heart has to pump out more blood for circulation. This increase in contractions leads to higher blood pressure levels. Over 70% of obese people suffer from high blood pressure.

Alcohol Consumption

One in four adults indulges in binge drinking. High quantities of alcohol can cause high blood pressure. More than two drinks a day can lead to higher levels of blood pressure. However, studies have suggested that a single glass of wine before bed can help reduce high blood pressures. Therefore, it is recommended that drinking should be done in moderation.

Smoking and Blood Pressure

Smoking instantly causes a chronic elevation in the blood pressure levels due to nicotine. Cigarette ingredients accelerate the build-up of fat in the arteries, as well as harden them. These factors not only increase the risk of high blood pressure by ten-fold, but also make the smoker susceptible to dangerous ailments such as stroke, heart attack, lung cancer and death. Nicotine itself is responsible for narrowing the arteries and blood vessels. With the additional lack of oxygen, thinning of blood vessels and build-up of cholesterol, smoking decreases a person’s lifespan by seven years.

Stress and Blood Pressure

Stress levels in the body can cause issues with cortisol and adrenaline hormone levels. These hormones are responsible for increasing blood pressure to allow the body to deal with a fight-or-flight response. Higher stress levels send a signal to the nervous system that the body is facing a threat. In response, the body regulates itself to either fight the trigger causing stress or run away from it. In both cases, the heart becomes active and pumps blood faster than necessary, causing hypertension.

High blood pressure itself does not have any specific causes, and it often results from a combination of lifestyle factors. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the risk of high blood pressure can be reduced significantly.

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