What Are The Causes
Of High Blood Pressure?

The Causes Of High Blood Pressure Are Not Always Known

In fact the causes of high blood pressure are usually not known.

When hypertension results from unknown causes it is referred to as essential (or primary) hypertension. Essential hypertension is by far the most common type accounting for 90 to 95% of the cases.

While is true that the causes of essential hypertension are unknown, there are several factors that can work together to raise blood pressure. Some of these influential factors are…


High salt intake is one of the most common causes of high blood pressure.

Too much salt intake can result in high blood pressure by increasing water retention. This in turn increases the amount of pressure on blood vessel walls. Salt levels can also result from kidney damage restricting the kidneys’ ability to remove salt from the blood.


Renin is one of the causes of high blood pressure related to the kidneys.

Renin is a hormone secreted by the kidneys. Renin reacts with a plasma protein called angiotensinogen which is produced by the liver. The result is a substance called angiotensin I.

A second enzyme - angiotensin converting enzyme (or ACE) – converts angiotensin I into angiotensin II. Angiotensin II causes blood vessels to constrict. When blood vessels constrict the heart has to work harder to force the blood through the narrowed channels.

Doctors will often prescribe ACE inhibitors to block the conversion of angiotensin I into angiotensin II. Naturally occurring fish peptides also have ACE inhibiting properties and are often used to help maintain blood pressure levels.

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Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose. A condition called insulin resistance occurs when the body loses its ability to regulate glucose. Unfortunately this can lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is also related to blood pressure. Studies have shown a correlation between increased insulin resistance and higher systolic blood pressure.

One study completed in July 2005 indicated that…

Cocoa flavonoids appear to have benefits on vascular function and glucose sensitivity.

In other words, the cocoa flavonoids found in dark chocolate might help reduce blood pressure and insulin resistance.

Read more about dark chocolate and blood pressure.


Low potassium intake is one of the causes of high blood pressure that we can change.

The fact that potassium influences blood pressure is supported by the results of two meta-analysis trials. Particularly it was shown that oral potassium supplements (60 to 120 mEq/d) lower blood pressure. The effect of potassium supplementation was greater in people with high blood pressure and in those who consumed higher levels of salt.


Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the controllable causes of high blood pressure. A study done by the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London Medical School and others concluded that…

Of the 48 centres in which some people reported consuming at least 300 ml/week of alcohol, 35 had positive regression coefficients linking heavy alcohol consumption to blood pressure. Overall, alcohol consumption was associated with blood pressure, significantly at the highest intake. After account was taken of key confounders, men who drank 300-499 ml alcohol/week had systolic/diastolic blood pressure on average 2.7/1.6 mm Hg higher than non-drinkers, and men who drank >=500 ml alcohol/week had pressures of 4.6/3.0 mm Hg higher.

Read more on the causes of high blood pressure and alcohol.

Excess Weight

The greater your body mass, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulating through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.

Unfortunately the young are not exempt from this fact. At the American Heart Association’s 44th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention it was reported that…

It takes about 10 years for high blood pressure in young people to develop after they become overweight, and obesity is on a steady upward climb in the young.

If you are overweight your heart has to work harder. By requiring this of your heart year after year you are elevating your risk for chronic heart trouble.


Lack of exercise is one of the changeable causes of high blood pressure. In addition to making your body stronger, exercise makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. Exercise also helps keep off those excess pounds which reduces the amount of work required of your heart.


Tobacco is one of the temporary causes of high blood pressure.

Nicotine can cause blood vessels to constrict increasing the workload on the heart and increasing blood pressure. Further, nicotine increases heart rate which also temporarily raises blood pressure.

Smoking does not raise blood pressure long-term. However, it does increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

As mentioned the direct causes of essential hypertension are not known. However, we do know several risk factors that influence essential hypertension. But what about the cases in which we do know the causes of high blood pressure?

What Causes Secondary Hypertension?

Secondary hypertension is elevated blood pressure that results from an underlying, identifiable, often correctable cause. Some of the more common causes are…

Renal Artery Stenosis

Stenosis – in this context - refers to the abnormal narrowing of the artery that supplies blood to the kidney. It has several possible causes the most common of which is atherosclerosis (the same process responsible for coronary heart disease).

Renal artery stenosis is the most common cause of secondary hypertension. It raises blood pressure by reducing blood flow to the kidneys. The kidneys serve as filters and remove waste products and excess fluids from the body. The kidneys receive almost one-third of the body’s blood flow, and any obstruction in their function has an effect throughout the body.

Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic renal failure is a gradual and progressive loss of the ability of the kidneys to excrete wastes, concentrate urine, and conserve electrolytes. When this occurs, the kidney cannot excrete normal amounts of sodium (salt) which leads to sodium and water retention.

Chronic renal failure may also result in higher levels of renin being released which also promotes hypertension.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which people repeatedly stop breathing for short periods of time (10-30 seconds) during their sleep. This condition has a variety of causes including…

  • Obesity
  • Airway obstruction
  • Central nervous system disorders

People with sleep apnea have a higher incidence of hypertension.


Excessive thyroid hormone…

  • Causes blood vessels to constrict
  • Increases blood volume
  • Increases cardiac activity

All of these factors can lead to hypertension.

Some patients with hypothyroidism (decreased thyroid hormone) develop hypertension. Its association is not clear but it sometimes causes blood vessel constriction and increased systemic vascular resistance.

Take Care Of Yourself

In most cases the direct causes of high blood pressure are not known. But there are several risk factors that can work together to raise blood pressure. Many of these secondary influences are controllable.

Take the steps that are within your power…

Also consider natural substances which have been shown to positively influence blood pressure. Such as…


Omega-3 has been shown to significantly reduce triglycerides. High triglycerides along with high cholesterol promote coronary heart disease. In fact…

The American Heart Association recommends Omega-3 supplements for anyone with high triglycerides or documented coronary heart disease.

What many people don’t know is Omega-3 also has been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure. You can use the links below to learn more.

Omega-3 and Triglycerides
Omega-3 and Coronary Heart Disease
Omega-3 and Blood Pressure

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