High Blood Pressure | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes high blood pressure?

Several different things can cause high blood pressure. Your doctor can help you find out what might be causing yours. In general, there are two types of high blood pressure:

  • Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension, is when there is no known cause for your high blood pressure. This is the most common type of hypertension. This type of blood pressure usually takes many years to develop and probably is a result of your lifestyle, environment, and how your body changes as you age.
  • Secondary hypertension is when a health problem or medicine is causing your high blood pressure. Things that can cause secondary hypertension include:

                — Kidney problems
                — Sleep apnea
                — Thyroid or adrenal gland problems
                — Birth control pills

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

The following are some common factors that can lead to high blood pressure:

  • A diet high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol
  • Chronic conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol
  • Family history: You are more likely to have high blood pressure if your parents or other close relatives also have it
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Older age: The older you are, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Race: Non-Hispanic black people are more likely to have high blood pressure than people of other races
  • Some birth control medicines
  • Stress
  • Tobacco use or drinking too much alcohol


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 12/15
Created: 01/96