Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for stroke and heart attack. It’s also one of the most common conditions in the U.S., affecting one in three American adults and two in three African Americans over the age of 65. But even if you’re not at high-risk for these serious problems, hypertension can still make your life difficult: An estimated 50 million people worldwide have undiagnosed hypertension, which means they don’t realize how much damage their condition is doing to their bodies—and neither do their doctors. Here are 10 factors that can increase your risk of developing hypertension:
Too much sodium
Sodium, a mineral found in salt, can cause your blood pressure to rise, especially if you consume too much of it. Sodium is often found in processed foods, such as canned soups, frozen dinners and packaged snacks. Try to limit these foods and read labels on food packaging carefully so that you don’t get more sodium than necessary.
If you’re concerned about getting enough calcium but don’t like dairy products or meat sources of calcium (such as kale), consider eating collard greens or bok choy instead of spinach for your calcium needs.
Not enough potassium
Potassium is an essential mineral for the body. It helps regulate blood pressure, which is why it’s especially important to get enough potassium if you have hypertension.
Potassium is found in a variety of foods, but it can sometimes be lacking in your diet. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables include sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados and spinach.
If you don’t eat enough foods rich in potassium or are taking certain medications such as diuretics (water pills), then supplementing with extra potassium may be beneficial for you as well.
Being overweight or obese, especially if you carry excess weight around your waist
Being overweight or obese, especially if you carry excess weight around your waist, is a major risk factor for hypertension. In general, the more body fat you have, the more likely it is that your blood pressure will be higher than normal.
You can control this risk factor by eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity to help keep your blood pressure down.
When your BMI goes up over time (according to the calculation below), there’s a relationship between that rise in BMI and increased risk of high blood pressure — even if other factors are accounted for like smoking and alcohol use.
BMI = Weight(kg)/Height2(m)
Not enough physical activity
One of the best ways to lower your blood pressure is through regular physical activity. While there’s no single exercise that will work for everyone, most people should aim for at least 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on most days of the week. Moderate intensity includes walking briskly or cycling at an exertion level between six and eight on a scale of one to ten (with ten being very hard).
For an even greater benefit, try adding strength training exercises two or three times per week. Research shows that this type of exercise can help prevent high blood pressure by reducing obesity, strengthening bones, improving cholesterol levels and more.
It’s also important to remember that different types of activity count toward your daily goal—for example:
- Aerobic activities such as running or cycling count toward both goals because they use large muscle groups in your body; however if you’re just starting out with these exercises it may be helpful to start slow until you’re comfortable enough with them so as not to risk injury.* Strength training exercises like push-ups count toward only one goal because they only use smaller muscle groups within each limb rather than those all over your body at once; however if done correctly these kinds of workouts are great for building strength everywhere from toning arms & abs all the way up into core stability so keep them coming!
Heavy use of alcohol
Alcohol is the leading cause of hypertension in the United States. Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure and increase risk for heart disease and stroke. The good news is that you can reduce your chances of developing hypertension by reducing how much you drink overall, choosing healthier drinks when socializing, and cutting back on how much you drink when eating or under stress.
These factors will increase your chances of having hypertension.
- You can reduce your risk of developing hypertension by losing weight, quitting smoking, and exercising.
- If you have a family history of high blood pressure or other related diseases such as diabetes, cholesterol problems or kidney disease, you may be at greater risk for developing hypertension.
- If you’re African American or Hispanic and have had diabetes for more than five years, then this increases your chances of having high blood pressure as well.
Now that you know some of the risk factors for hypertension and how to control them, it’s time to take action! The most important thing is that you keep yourself informed about your condition. This will help you manage it effectively and prevent any complications in the future. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor about it immediately