8 Modifiable Risk Factors for hypertension
Maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s modifiable. We’re talking high blood pressure, which, in some cases, you could have just as much control over as the food you eat – literally. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we elaborate on the modifiable risk factors for hypertension, let’s talk about high blood pressure in general.
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. When it remains too high over time, your heart and blood vessels must work harder to pump blood.
The friction of high blood pressure (aka: HBD or hypertension) can also damage the delicate tissues inside the arteries. This results in the formation of plaque (caused by LDL – bad – cholesterol) within tiny tears in the artery walls. As the plaque and artery damage increase, the insides of the arteries become more narrow, continuing to raise blood pressure.
Ultimately, hypertension can increase your risk for heart attack, stroke, or heart and kidney failure.
Aside from medication, the only other treatment for hypertension is lifestyle changes. Certain elements of your lifestyle can be adapted to prevent your risk of developing high blood pressure, and, in turn, heart problems.
8 Modifiable Risk Factors for hypertension
In 2018, nearly half a million deaths in the United States included hypertension as a primary or contributing cause. And only one in four living Americans has their condition under control.
Address these modifiable risk factors for hypertension to minimize your risk of other health concerns like fatal heart attack and stroke.
1. Physical activity
Not getting enough exercise increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Physical activity is beneficial for your heart health and circulatory system in general, as well as fending off hypertension.
Find an activity you enjoy, whether it be at the gym, in the yard, or intramural sports, and just get moving! Aim for about 30 minutes a day, but don’t beat yourself up for not hitting that mark. Every little bit counts!
A healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein from a variety of sources. A diet too high in saturated and trans fats, sugar, and sodium adds to your risk of developing high blood pressure.
In general, the higher your salt intake, the greater your risk of developing hypertension. Try substituting salt for other spices like pepper, basil, and garlic!
Carrying excess weight strains your heart and circulatory system, which can lead to a variety of health concerns. In addition to the increased risk of developing hypertension, being overweight can put you at risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
4. Alcohol consumption
Regular, heavy alcohol use can lead to a variety of health concerns, including heart failure, stroke, cancer, and hypertension. Not to mention increased suicide and accident risk.
Drinking safely and responsibly is important. For help with assessing your alcohol awareness, get in touch with your primary care or mental health provider.
5. Sleep apnea
Increased risk of developing high blood pressure is common among people with obstructive sleep apnea. Signs of sleep apnea include morning headaches, waking up with a dry mouth, difficulty sleeping (or excessive sleepiness), irritability, and trouble concentrating while awake.
See a doctor to confirm whether you have sleep apnea and know that it can be treated or managed.
More than half of people with high blood pressure also have high cholesterol. Similar to hypertension, our cholesterol levels can be influenced by several factors, including genetics, diabetes, smoking, weight, and activity level.
7. Smoking and tobacco use
Tobacco products can cause temporary increases in blood pressure, which can still attribute to damaged arteries. Additionally, secondhand smoke even puts nonsmokers at risk for cardiovascular problems.
The good news: your blood pressure starts to drop within 20 minutes of quitting smoking. And when you know what to expect, quitting can be a little less daunting.
A moderate amount of stress is normal, healthy even! It can boost your memory, make you more efficient, and of course, keep you safe. But too much stress can have negative consequences, one of them being high blood pressure.
Stress can also encourage other unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk of developing hypertension. For instance, poor diet, inactivity, smoking, and drug and alcohol use may derive from increased stress levels.
While you have control over these modifiable risk factors for hypertension, other risk factors are not adjustable. Nonmodifiable risk factors include things like age, race, gender, and a family history of high blood pressure.
You can’t control every risk factor, but you can control some. Consult your doctor about any concerns you have related to high blood pressure and to discuss which lifestyle changes you will adopt in order to manage your risk of developing hypertension.