What are the Causes of High Blood Pressure?

10 minutes read.    


One scary thing about High blood pressure (HBP) is that it cannot harm your body singly but may lead to other dangerous health conditions, including stroke, heart attack, chronic heart failure, and kidney disease if not given immediate attention.

Did you know that most people with high blood pressure or hypertension have no symptoms, even when their blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels? Are you surprised? That’s why most call hypertension a “silent killer”

What you eat and drink over a long period of time contributes heavily to why you developed high blood pressure. Being properly aware of the root causes and risk factors of high blood pressure will enable you to prevent it and treat or control it better.

This article will help you understand what you should know to control, treat and prevent high blood pressure as well as its complications.  Feel free to skip ahead.

In this article:

What’s high blood pressure (hypertension)?

Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls.

It’s a common disease in which blood flows through blood vessels and arteries is higher than normal pressures.

You may also define Blood pressure as the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure happens when this force is too high.

Standard medical treatment for elevated blood pressure is to prescribe dangerous beta blockers, ACE inhibitor drugs, and diuretics, along with convincing the patient to restrict salt in the diet.

Although these things can help, they don’t get to the root of the problem and can actually cause more problems.

We’ve been encouraged to fear salt when it comes to our health, but this recommendation of extreme salt reduction for high blood pressure symptoms remains controversial, questionable, and even destructive for good reason.

By statistics, hypertension costs a developed country like the U.S. about $46 billion each year, which includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat high blood pressure symptoms, and missed days of work.

Why? You will find out the answer as we proceed.

Types of high blood pressure      

Blood pressure is determined by two things: the amount of blood the heart pumps and how hard it is for the blood to move through the arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure.

There are two main types of high blood pressure.

1. Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension

For most adults, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension.

It tends to develop gradually over many years. Plaque buildup in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, increases the risk of high blood pressure.

2. Secondary hypertension

This type of high blood pressure is caused by an underlying condition. It tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than primary hypertension.

What’s considered Normal and high blood pressure?

When blood pressure is measured, there are two numbers that result, which measure two different pressures.

The top number is systolic pressure, the blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. The second or bottom number is diastolic pressure, the blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

According to the new guidelines from the American Heart Association, here are what’s considered normal or higher for your blood pressure.

  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120–129 and diastolic less than 80;
  • Stage 1: Systolic between 130–139 or diastolic between 80–89;
  • Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;

A hypertensive crisis occurs when the systolic is over 180 and/or diastolic is over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.

Signs and Symptoms

Frequently, there are no high blood pressure symptoms as blood pressure increases, but some warning signs for very high blood pressure can include:

  • chest pains,
  • confusion,
  • headaches,
  • ear noise or buzzing,
  • sleeping difficulty,
  • dizziness
  • blurred or double vision
  • heart palpitations
  • breathlessness

When high blood pressure symptoms do develop, it’s normally because the condition has progressed to a dangerous point. This is called hypertensive crisis which means a systolic/top number higher than 180 OR diastolic/bottom number higher than 110.

It is a sudden, severe increase in blood pressure

A hypertensive crisis is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. At this point, symptoms are usually present, including:

  • Severe headaches
  • Severe anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nosebleeds

It can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other life-threatening health problems

Also, keep in mind that the readings above are intended for normal adults over 18 years old. If you have diabetes, kidney disease, or a short-term serious illness, your readings will be interpreted differently.

If you have diabetes (another very common problem) or chronic kidney disease, then high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 or higher.

Root Causes and Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure

Knowing what triggers high blood pressure can help you prevent or reverse it. Like with most other chronic diseases, the reason someone develops HBP has to do with several factors.

In some cases, HBP seems to run in families, but it’s also highly dependent upon the type of lifestyle someone lives and sometimes how your mind-control the circumstances surrounding you.

Conditions and medicines that can lead to secondary hypertension as mentioned above include:

  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Blood vessel problems present at birth, also called congenital heart defects
  • Cough and cold medicines, some pain relievers (e.g. ibuprofen and its relatives), birth control pills, and other prescription drugs.
  • Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
  • Kidney disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Thyroid problems
  • Sometimes just getting a health checkup causes blood pressure to increase. This is called white-coat hypertension.

Other Chemical substances and medicines that can cause high blood pressure include:

  • Acetaminophen.
  • Amphetamines, ecstasy (MDMA and derivatives), and cocaine.
  • Angiogenesis inhibitors (including tyrosine kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies)
  • Antidepressants (including venlafaxine, bupropion, and desipramine

Top risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk of high blood pressure increases with age. Until about age 64, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
  • Race: High blood pressure is particularly common among Black people. It develops at an earlier age in Black people than it does in White people.
  • Family history: You’re more likely to develop high blood pressure if you have a parent or sibling with the condition.
  • Unhealthy Diet: Long-term consumption of a diet high in empty saturated fat and trans fat, high sodium, and low in potassium has been linked by many studies to contribute to an increase in blood pressure.

Example; pizza, chips, bread, industrial butter, cake, biscuits, etc. This food may cause the deposition of bad fat in the walls of arteries and vessels, thereby putting pressure on the rate at which blood flow. This condition is called atherosclerosis.

Related: What is LDL cholesterol?  Symptoms, Causes & More

  • Obesity or being overweight: Excess weight causes changes in the blood vessels, the kidneys, and other parts of the body. These changes often increase blood pressure. Being overweight or having obesity also raises the risk of heart disease and its risk factors, such as high cholesterol.
  • Lack of exercise: Not exercising can cause weight gain. Increased weight raises the risk of high blood pressure. People who are inactive also tend to have higher heart rates.
  • Tobacco use or vaping: Smoking, chewing tobacco, or vaping immediately raises blood pressure for a short while.

Tobacco smoking injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. If you smoke, ask your care provider for strategies to help you quit.

Smoking is the most common cause of avoidable cardiovascular disease worldwide. The incidence of hypertension is increased in people above 45 years than in those below 35 years.

  • Too much salt: A lot of salt in your diet— also called sodium — in the body can cause the body to retain fluid. This increases blood pressure.

Consumption of too much salt also comes from fast food such as bread, pizza, deli meats, canned food, chips, etc.

  • Low potassium levels: Potassium helps balance the amount of salt in the body’s cells. A proper balance of potassium is important for good heart health.

Low potassium levels may be due to a lack of potassium in the diet or certain health conditions, including dehydration. For example, western diets are very low in potassium and high in salt.

  • Drinking too much alcohol: The effect of alcohol intake on blood pressure remains controversial because oftentimes, Alcohol use has been linked with increased blood pressure, particularly in men.

On the contrary, a systematic review and meta-analysis study reported People drinking two drinks or fewer per day did not have a significant reduction in blood pressure when they reduced their alcohol consumption to near abstinence, suggesting that this amount of alcohol intake does not increase blood pressure.

However, the more people drink beyond this level, the higher the subsequent reduction in blood pressure. There’s a need for researchers to look more into this to draw conclusions.

  • Anxiety

Pooled results from systematic studies showed that anxiety had a significant positive association with hypertension.

Anxiety doesn’t cause long-term high blood pressure (hypertension). But episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure.

  • Stress: High levels of stress can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure. Stress as a result of family, personal, business, and economic problems can lead to high blood pressure in some people.

Being under stress can cause your blood pressure to spike briefly. But researchers aren’t sure whether stress can cause blood pressure to rise long-term.

  • Hormonal Change

Hormonal factors mean that the risk of high blood pressure may be different in males and females.

For example, female

Hormonal changes as a result of:

  • Pregnancy,
  • Menopause,
  • using birth control pills.

During pregnancy, high blood pressure can indicate preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that can affect both the person and their fetus.

In a survey of 461 women routinely attending family planning clinics, those taking oral contraceptives had significantly higher mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures than those using non-hormonal contraception.

There appeared to be a dose-response relation of blood pressure to the progestogen component of two oral contraceptives with an identical 30 μg ethinyloestradiol component.

  • Certain chronic conditions: Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea are some of the conditions that can lead to high blood pressure.

Related: 16 Natural Ways to Control High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is most common in adults. But kids can have high blood pressure too. High blood pressure in children may be caused by problems with the kidneys or heart.

But for a growing number of kids, high blood pressure is due to lifestyle habits such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.


The excessive pressure on the artery walls caused by high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and body organs. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to complications such as:

  • Heart attack or stroke: Hardening and thickening of the arteries due to high blood pressure or other factors can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other complications.
  • Aneurysm: Increased blood pressure can cause a blood vessel to weaken and bulge, forming an aneurysm. If an aneurysm ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
  • Heart failure: When you have high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder to pump blood. The strain causes the walls of the heart’s pumping chamber to thicken.

This condition is called left ventricular hypertrophy. Eventually, the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, causing heart failure.

  • Kidney problems: High blood pressure can cause the blood vessels in the kidneys to become narrow or weak. This can lead to kidney damage.
  • Eye problems: Increased blood pressure can cause thickened, narrowed, or torn blood vessels in the eyes. This can result in vision loss.
  • Metabolic syndrome: This syndrome is a group of disorders of the body’s metabolism. It involves the irregular breakdown of sugar, also called glucose.

The syndrome includes increased waist size, high triglycerides, decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels. These conditions make you more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

  • Changes with memory or understanding: Uncontrolled high blood pressure may affect the ability to think, remember and learn.
  • Dementia: Narrowed or blocked arteries can limit blood flow to the brain. This can cause a certain type of dementia called vascular dementia. A stroke that interrupts blood flow to the brain can also cause vascular dementia.

Related: What are the benefits of HDL cholesterol in the body?


Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure happens when this force is too high.

Blood pressure is considered normal when is less than 120/80 mm Hg and considered high when is over 139/89, however, is said to be a crisis when is over 180/120.

There are no high blood pressure symptoms as blood pressure increases, but some warning signs for very high blood pressure can include: chest pains, confusion, headaches, ear noise or buzzing, sleeping difficulty, dizziness, blurred or double vision, heart palpitations, and breathlessness.

The root causes of high blood pressure include:

Adrenal gland tumors, Blood vessel problems, Cough and cold medicines, some pain relievers (e.g. ibuprofen and its relatives), birth control pills, and other prescription drugs, Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, Kidney disease, Obstructive sleep apnea, and Thyroid problems

Top risk factors include Age, Race, Family history, and Unhealthy Diet (e.g. pizza, chips, bread, industrial butter, cake, biscuits, etc.). Obesity, Lack of exercise, Tobacco use or vaping, too much salt, Low potassium levels, drinking too much alcohol, Anxiety Stress, Pregnancy, Menopause, and using birth control pills.

Children may also develop high blood due to certain medical conditions.

High blood pressure if left uncontrolled it leads to some life-threatening complications such as Heart attack or stroke, Aneurysm, Heart failure, Kidney problems, Eye problems, metabolic syndrome, Changes with memory or understanding, Dementia

As you learned today, what you eat (either medicine) and what you do over a period of time contribute heavily to why you developed high blood pressure. Knowing the root causes, and risk factors will help you control and reverse it.

Consult your doctor to tell you what’s normal for you. You may also like to explore Sixteen Natural Ways to Control High Blood Pressure.

I hope you get the value worth the time. I appreciate the time you spend with me. Leave a comment below if you find this article helpful, and feel free to drop your question if any. Cheers!


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