What causes high blood pressure?

The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but several things may play a role, including:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt in the diet
  • Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Genetics
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • Sleep apnea

Essential Hypertension

In as many as 95% of high blood pressure cases in the U.S., the underlying cause can’t be found. This type of high blood pressure is called “essential hypertension.”

Though essential hypertension remains somewhat mysterious, it has been linked to certain risk factors.

High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women.

Age and race also play a role. In the United States, blacks are twice as likely as whites to have high blood pressure, although the gap begins to narrow around age 44.

After age 65, black women have the highest incidence of high blood pressure.