Who is at risk for high blood pressure?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

High blood pressure is most common among people who have specific risk factors such as age (increased risk with age), race, obesity, diabetes, race, sedentary lifestyle, stress, alcohol excess, cigarette smoking, and genetics. African Americans in the United States have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure in the world today.

Risk factors are conditions or behaviors that increase your chances of developing a disease. Risk factors don’t mean that you will get an illness such as hypertension. Rather, they mean you have a greater chance of getting this health condition. When you have more than one risk factor for heart disease, your risk of developing heart disease greatly multiplies. The good news about risk factors is that you can begin to change those risk factors you can control. For instance, with hypertension risk factors, you cannot change your age, genetics, or race. But you can make lifestyle changes to lose weight, stop cigarette smoking, lower your alcohol consumption, get up and exercise each day, lower your stress level, get checked for type 2 diabetes and start a treatment plan to manage this common disease. By changing risk factors for hypertension now, you can decrease the chance of high blood pressure causing damage to your body and lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and heart failure.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has several risk factors that increase the likelihood of this common condition. Some of the uncontrollable risk factors are increased age, male gender, African American race and a significant family history of high blood pressure. Some of the controllable risk factors include obesity, increased salt and alcohol consumption, smoking and lack of physical activity. Increased levels of stress and certain chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea may also increase the risk of high blood pressure.

High blood pressure affects about one in three adults, potentially putting them at increased risk for serious, or even life-threatening, health problems.

High blood pressure risks can increase due to geneticsor lifestyle. Risk increases with age.Up to 45, high blood pressure affects more men than women. But after 65, the reverse is true.

After age 50, high systolic blood pressure (over 140 mmHg) is a greater risk factor for stroke and heart disease than diastolic pressure. Blacks are more likely to develop high blood pressure than other races.

Being overweight, not getting enough exercise, smoking and consuming too much sodium can all contribute to high blood pressure.

High blood pressure -- or hypertension -- is very common. Nearly one in three adults in America have it. People at the highest risk for high blood pressure are the ones that have a family history of it. Other risk factors include physical inactivity, excess weight, aging, and stress. Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of high blood pressure and it tends to rise with age.

The risk for high blood pressure varies among the different groups, but it's more common in the African American community. Once a person develops high blood pressure, it can last a lifetime.

Everyone. Asking who’s at risk for hypertension is almost like asking who is at risk for stubbing a toe today, because the risk is so great and widespread.

One in three American adults develop high blood pressure, or hypertension, making it the most common medical condition in the United States. You are particularly at risk if you are

  • a male over 45 or female over 55
  • African-American
  • overweight or obese
  • have diabetes
  • have a sedentary lifestyle (aka don’t get those 10,000 steps every day)
  • eat a very high sodium diet
  • have family members who have been diagnosed
  • a smoker
  • a heavy drinker

Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is always wise. If any of the above applies to you, then talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep your BP in check.

People with other conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, are likely to become hypertensive. In addition, being overweight, drinking alcohol excessively (defined as more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women), and taking oral contraceptives may increase blood pressure. Overall, nearly one in three American adults has hypertension. More men than women have hypertension, until women reach menopause, when their risk becomes greater than men's. An estimated 27% of women have high blood pressure.
Dr. Niberto L. Moreno, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Common factors that increase a person's risk of getting hypertension, or high blood pressure, include aging, obesity, a poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol abuse. High blood pressure, in turn, raises the odds of developing atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. Hypertension is common, afflicting nearly one in three American adults -- about 65 million people. African Americans in particular are more likely to get high blood pressure and often develop it early in life. Genetics may play a role, too, as high blood pressure can run in families. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about treatment to get your numbers down to a normal level.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.