Skip to content

This information was reviewed and approved by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP (8/1/2019).

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

The exact cause of hypertension to is not known, but there are a number of factors that increase the risk of developing hypertension.


Risk factors for Hypertension include:

  • Age — As people get older, the arteries can stiffen up and narrow as plaque builds up.

  • Alcohol — Consumed regularly in large amounts, alcohol can increase blood pressure. Even “normal” amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure.

  • Tobacco – Smoking can increase blood pressure. Giving up smoking is important for your health.

  • Diet — To prevent fatty tissue buildup and becoming overweight, avoid eating processed and fatty foods and adopt a healthy diet.

  • Ethnicity — People who are African American, American Indian/native Alaskan, Asian, native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders have a significantly greater chance of developing hypertension than people who are Caucasian or Hispanic.

  • Family history of high blood pressure — One or more close family members with hypertension increases your risk of developing the condition.

  • Obesity — An increase in fatty tissue throughout the body makes the heart work harder to push blood through the circulatory system.

  • Physical inactivity — Lack of physical activity is linked to obesity, which is linked to high blood pressure. Increasing activity and exercise can help lower your weight and blood pressure.

  • Potassium — Not eating enough foods with potassium can increase blood pressure and the risk of stroke and chronic kidney disease.

  • Stress — Reacting to stress in unhealthy ways or not managing your stress can increase your blood pressure.

  • Salt excess — In susceptible individuals, too much salt can raise blood pressure.

Other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and sleep apnea can increase blood pressure.

Medications for asthma and colds, as well as hormones for menopause, may raise blood pressure.

It’s important to know your blood pressure numbers and when they go up or down. Early detection of heart disease is important to early intervention and preventing death.


For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.