"Make Control Your Goal" is the theme for American Heart Month with a focus on controlling high blood pressure and an important part of this is knowing your risk factors for high blood pressure. According to the CDC, risk factors include health conditions, your lifestyle and your family history that can increase your risk for high blood pressure. While your age and family history can’t be controlled, there are steps to take to change factors that can be controlled. Here’s three high blood pressure risk factors:
- Prehypertension. Prehypertension is blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal. It increases the risk that you will develop chronic, or long-lasting, high blood pressure in the future.
- Diabetes. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin, can not use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. This will increase the blood sugar.
- Unhealthy diet. A diet that is too high in sodium and too low in potassium puts you at risk for high blood pressure. Eating too much sodium, which is prevalent in table salt, increases blood pressure. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant foods. Also, a lack of potassium can increase blood pressure. Potassium is found in bananas, potatoes, beans and yogurt.
- Physical Inactivity
- Obesity. This is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower “good cholesterol levels. Obesity can also lead to heart disease and diabetes.
- Too much alcohol. Women should have no more than 1 drink a day, while men should have no more than 2 drinks a day.
- Tobacco Use. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry.
Family history and other characteristics
- Genetics and family history. Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of high blood pressure share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk. The risk for high blood pressure can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and an unhealthy diet.
- Sex: Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure at some point during their lives.
- Race or ethnicity: Blacks develop high blood pressure more often than whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians or Alaska Natives. Compared to whites, blacks also develop high blood pressure earlier in life.
- Age: Because your blood pressure tends to rise as you get older, your risk for high blood pressure increases with age. About 9 of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes.