High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure caused by blood pushing against the blood vessel walls becomes greater than normal. While most people with high blood pressure will have no symptoms for many years, the condition is dangerous because it can cause the arteries to harden and contribute to risk of cardiovascular failure.
For most people, the exact causes of high blood pressure are difficult to trace. Known as primary hypertension, this type of high blood pressure may result from a combination of lifestyle factors, such as a history of smoking, being overweight, a lack of exercise, high levels of stress from work or family life, and a poor diet.
Genetic Factors and Other Underlying Conditions
There are also genetic factors that may contribute to high blood pressure. Some individuals have a family history of high blood pressure and must take special care to ensure a healthy lifestyle so as not to exacerbate the likelihood of developing hypertension.
Additionally, high blood pressure can be caused by certain underlying conditions. This type, known as secondary hypertension, may occur suddenly and cause higher blood pressure compared to primary hypertension. People with chronic kidney disease, adrenal and thyroid disorders, obstructive sleep apnea or with certain congenital defects that affect the blood vessels can be prone to high blood pressure. Some medications, such as birth control pills, over-the-counter pain relievers, decongestants and some cold remedies, also may also increase your risk of developing hypertension.