How to Identify Hypertension Causes

Three Parts:Reviewing Your History and LifestyleConsidering Dietary Causes of HypertensionManaging Hypertension with Diet and Lifestyle

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a serious chronic condition. It's diagnosed when the force of the blood against your arteries is so high that it causes long-term damage to your heart and arteries.[1] There are a variety causes and risk factors of hypertension. Many are manageable and in your control to change. Modifying your diet, lifestyle and staying in contact with your doctor can help you identify your causes and risk factors in addition to lowering your risk for this chronic disease.

Part 1
Reviewing Your History and Lifestyle

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    Talk to your family. One of the most common causes of hypertension is a strong family history.[2] This genetic component to hypertension is not something you can change, but something you should be aware of.
    • If you're trying to identify your own personal causes for hypertension, start with your family members. Get in contact with your parents, siblings, grandparents or aunts and uncles.
    • Talk to them about their health history and specifically ask if anyone has issues with high blood pressure.
    • If so, ask when they were diagnosed with hypertension, how long they've had it and how they're being treated for it.
    • If one or more of you close family members (parents, siblings and grandparents) had hypertension, you also have an increased genetic risk for this disease as well.
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    Get on the scale. Although you cannot change your family history, you can manage your weight. Those who are overweight or obese have a significantly higher risk for having hypertension.[3]
    • Having a weight that puts you into an overweight or obese category is a very big risk factor and cause of hypertension. Many times, with weight loss alone, hypertension can be put into remission or resolved completely.
    • Get on the scale and take note of your current weight. Either have your physician calculate your BMI or ideal body weight or input your height and weight into an online calculator.
    • If your BMI is indicating that you are overweight or obese, it may be beneficial for you to lose weight. Talk to your doctor about safe and appropriate weight loss techniques.
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    Take your stress levels into account. Not as obvious as weight or genetics, stress is another cause of hypertension.[4] If you have a stressful job or lifestyle, this may be causing hypertension.
    • Whether it's your job, family or financial issues, stress causes an increase in your blood pressure.
    • In addition, many people cope with stress in inappropriate ways. Eating more (especially high calorie comfort foods), drinking alcohol or smoking are common stress-relief methods. They're not only unhealthy but also cause an increase in your blood pressure.
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    Consider your lifestyle behaviors. Some of your lifestyle choices may also be causes of hypertension. Smoking and being physically inactive in particular, are two significant risk factors for hypertension.[5]
    • There are several reasons why smoking causes hypertension. For one, this behavior damages your heart and blood vessels. It can make your blood vessels less flexible which can increase your blood pressure.
    • In addition, the nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant and raises your blood pressure and the carbon monoxide decreases the oxygen content of your blood.
    • A lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain which causes hypertension. In addition, a lack of activity can increase your resting heart rate which increases the work load on your heart and your overall blood pressure.
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    Talk to your doctor about secondary hypertension. There are two different types of hypertension. Primary hypertension has no identifiable cause, but develops slowly over the years. Secondary hypertension is caused by another health condition.[6]
    • Some people that have hypertension also have another underlying health issues that's actually causing their blood pressure to be elevated.
    • Secondary hypertension tends to appear suddenly and will go away once the underlying condition is resolved.
    • Health problems associated with secondary hypertension include: obstructive sleep apnea, kidney diseases, thyroid problems, adrenal gland tumors, congenital defects, certain medications and illegal drug use.
    • If you have any of these health issues, talk to your doctor about your risk for developing secondary hypertension.

Part 2
Considering Dietary Causes of Hypertension

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    Track your sodium intake. One of the biggest causes and risk factors for developing hypertension is your diet. Your sodium intake, in particular, can be to blame for your elevated blood pressure.[7]
    • A diet that is high in sodium or salt can increase your blood pressure. The increase in sodium causes your body to retain extra fluid. As this extra fluid is pumped through your heart, it increases your heart's work load.
    • Over time, this can not only damage your heart, but also keep your blood pressure elevated.
    • To see if your diet is high in sodium, consider keeping a food journal and tracking your sodium intake. Your diet is high in sodium if you're eating more than 2500 mg daily.
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    Keep tabs on how much potassium you consume daily. A healthy and well balance diet will provide your body with enough essential nutrients - like potassium. If your diet is lacking in these nutrients, especially potassium, it can also cause hypertension.[8]
    • Potassium counterbalances the sodium in your diet and body. When you don't get enough potassium in your diet, your body will have higher levels of sodium which can increase your blood pressure.
    • Potassium is found in a wide range of foods. Consider keeping a food journal that tracks nutrient intakes. That way, you can see at the end of each day if you're consuming adequate amounts of potassium.
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    Note how much Vitamin D you get each day. Similar to potassium, Vitamin D also plays an important role in how your body manages your blood pressure. Since Vitamin D is a common deficiency, this may be part of the cause of high blood pressure.[9]
    • Vitamin D is hard to get from foods and most people do not stay out in the sun long enough to produce adequate amounts.
    • When you do not have enough Vitamin D in your body, this affects the way your kidneys are able to manage your blood pressure. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure.
    • The only way to tell if you're getting adequate Vitamin D is by a blood test. This will let you know if you're deficient in this essential vitamin.
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    Count up how many alcoholic beverages you have. One particular beverage that can be a cause for hypertension is alcohol. If you drink on a regular basis, this could be increasing your risk for this chronic disease.[10]
    • Alcohol affects many organ systems in your body. In particular, it can damage your heart - especially if you've been drinking for a while.
    • When your heart is damaged, it needs to work harder to pump blood through your body. This is what will increase your blood pressure.
    • Take note of how many alcoholic beverages you have each day or throughout the week. One shot, 4 oz of wine or 8 oz of beer count as one alcoholic beverage.

Part 3
Managing Hypertension with Diet and Lifestyle

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    Reduce your sodium intake. Once you've identified some of the causes of high blood pressure, begin working on changing your lifestyle and diet so that you can reduce your overall risk.
    • Reducing your sodium intake is one of the best and easiest ways to reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
    • Most health professionals recommend that you keep your total sodium levels under 2500 mg per day. However, newer recommendations say that 1500-2000 mg should be your limit.[11]
    • Tracking your foods in a food journal can help you see how much sodium you consume daily and which foods you eat are the highest in sodium.
    • In particular, you should stay away from foods like: pizza, frozen meals, fast foods, fried foods, canned foods (especially soups) and processed meat.
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    Focus on potassium-rich foods. As mentioned, to help counteract the sodium in your diet, you need to make sure you're eating enough potassium. Try increasing the amount of potassium-rich foods that you eat during the day.
    • Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains contain potassium. Try to include several servings of these during the day.
    • Include 1 cup of vegetables, 1/2 cup of fruit, 2 oz of whole grains or 1 cup of dairy foods per serving.[12]
    • The following foods are exceptionally high in potassium: potatoes, dairy foods, tomatoes, kidney beans, dried fruit, bananas, avocados, fish, and acorn squash.[13]
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    Consider losing excess weight. Although diet modifications are important, it would be more beneficial for you to lose excess weight. If you are overweight or obese, even losing a little weight can make a big difference on your blood pressure.[14]
    • Even losing just 5-10 pounds can help drop your blood pressure by a few points almost immediately.
    • To see if you need to lose weight, check your BMI or your ideal body weight. If these measures indicate that you are above your target weight, aim for weight loss.
    • It's typically recommended to try to lose about 1-2 pounds per week. This is safe and sustainable weight loss.[15]
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    Quit smoking and decrease your alcohol consumption. Even if you lose weight and change your diet, if you continue with destructive lifestyle choices, your blood pressure will still be elevated. Stop smoking and decrease your alcohol consumption to help decrease your risk for hypertension.[16]
    • If you currently smoke, plan to quit. Try to quit cold turkey since this removes those harmful toxins from your body immediately.
    • If you're having trouble quitting, consider talking to your doctor about prescription medication or referring you to a smoking cessation program.
    • In addition to giving up smoking, cut down on your alcohol consumption. Women shouldn't have more than 1 drink daily and men should limit themselves to 2 drinks or less per day.
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    Get physically active. Exercising regularly will help you decrease your blood pressure and reduce your overall risk. Start adding in regular aerobic and strength training to your routine each week.[17]
    • Health professionals recommend that you participate in at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week.
    • Aim for moderate intensity activities like: hiking, jogging, walking, swimming, biking, taking an aerobics class, or using the elliptical.
    • Also include 1-2 days of strength training each week. Aim to work each major muscle group and your workouts should total at least 20 minutes.
    • Include weight training exercises like: weight lifting, plyometrics, pilates or yoga.

Tips

  • Identifying causes of hypertension can help you figure out how high your risk is for this chronic disease.
  • If you meet a lot of these identifying issues, talk to your doctor about how to lower your risk of hypertension.
  • Make changes to your diet and lifestyle to help lower your risk level for hypertension.

Sources and Citations

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580
  3. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandYourRiskforHighBloodPressure/Understand-Your-Risk-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp#.V4k3lvkrKUk
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Article Info

Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure