In most cases, there are no specific causes of high blood pressure. Factors such as being overweight, smoking, and having diabetes can increase a person’s risk of developing this condition, but they are not “causes” in and of themselves. High blood pressure without an identifiable cause is known as primary or “essential hypertension.”
Understanding What Causes High Blood Pressure
In most people, a single, specific cause of high blood pressure is not known. This is called primary or essential hypertension. In other people, high blood pressure is the result of another medical problem or medicine. When the cause is known, this is called secondary high blood pressure.
If a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure, it doesn’t mean that he or she is “too nervous,” overanxious, or obsessive. This is a popular myth. High blood pressure is not nervous tension. In fact, many people who are perfectly calm have high blood pressure.
Primary Hypertension — When There Is No Known Cause
For nine out of ten people, there is no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This is called “primary hypertension” or “essential hypertension.” Most people with primary hypertension don’t even realize that they have it; the majority of people with the condition feel no different from those who have normal blood pressure. That’s why high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer.”
In one out of ten people, the high blood pressure cause is known. This is called secondary hypertension. Some conditions that can cause secondary hypertension include:
- Sleep apnea
- Pheochromocytoma (a tumor of the adrenal gland)
- Cushing’s syndrome (a hormonal disorder)
- Aldosteronism (a condition in which adrenal glands produce too much of the hormone aldosterone)
- Hypothyroidism (the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones)
- Hyperthyroidism (the thyroid produces an excess of hormones)
- Coarctation of the aorta (narrowing of the aorta)
- Hyperparathyroidism (excessive production of parathyroid hormone by the parathyroid glands)
- Acromegaly (a metabolic disorder caused by too much growth hormone)
- Certain medicines, such as birth control pills
- Kidney disease (such as polycystic kidney disease or glomerulonephritis).
High Blood Pressure Cause Versus Risk Factors
- Having diabetes
- Being a male over the age of 45 or a female over the age of 55
- Being overweight
- Eating a lot of salty foods (see Salt and High Blood Pressure)
- Being of African-American descent.
Although more men have high blood pressure than women, women do increase their risk of the disease if they take birth control pills.
What Makes High Blood Pressure Worse?
High blood pressure can be made worse by different things. A few factors that can worsen the disease include: