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During National High Blood Pressure Education Month in May, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is challenging Americans to participate in a national pledge to #MoveWithHeart to help reduce their risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). NHLBI is asking you to pledge by posting a photo or uploading a video of yourself doing being physically active and using the hashtag.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension or High Blood Pressure increases your risk of dangerous health conditions like heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity might lower your risk for developing hypertension. During National High Blood Pressure Education Month in May, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is challenging Americans to participate in a national pledge to #MoveWithHeart to help reduce their risk of high blood pressure. NHLBI is asking you to pledge by posting a photo or uploading a video of yourself doing being physically active and using the hashtag.
Only about 22 percent of adults meet the federal government’s physical activity guidelines. Spending just 2 1/2 hours per week doing physical activity that gets your heart pumping and leaves you a little breathless can have significant heart health benefits including lowering your risk of high blood pressure. Get creative by demonstrating your favorite physical activity in your pledge. Challenge your friends, family, and colleagues on social media to pledge too. Share on Twitter or Instagram using #MoveWithHeart.
Hypertension Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for high blood pressure. Some risk factors, such as unhealthy lifestyle habits, can be changed. Other risk factors, such as age, family history and genetics, race and ethnicity, and sex, cannot be changed. Heathy lifestyle changes can decrease your risk for developing high blood pressure.
Blood pressure tends to increase with age. Our blood vessels naturally thicken and stiffen over time. These changes increase the risk for high blood pressure.
However, the risk of high blood pressure is increasing for children and teens, possibly due to the rise in the number of children and teens who are living with overweight or obesity.
Want to learn more about the molecular changes that happen in your blood vessels as you age?
As we age, blood vessel structure and function changes in the following ways:
- Changes in blood vessel function. The lining of blood vessels sustains more damage over time. This may be caused by oxidative stress or DNA damage, among other factors. With age, levels of the hormone angiotensin also rise, triggering inflammation in blood vessels. At the same time, vessels slowly lose the ability to release substances that protect or repair the lining. When the blood vessel lining does not work as well, higher diastolic blood pressures can result.
- Changes in blood vessel structure. Blood vessels have layers of the proteins elastin and collagen. Elastin is what makes blood vessels flexible. Collagen, which is stiffer, gives vessels structure. With age, elastin breaks down. Even the elastin that remains becomes less elastic. Meanwhile, collagen deposits in the vessels increase. As a result, blood vessels grow thicker and bend less easily over time. These changes may lead to higher systolic blood pressure.
Family history and genetics
High blood pressure often runs in families. Much of the understanding of the body systems involved in high blood pressure has come from genetic studies. Research has identified many gene variations associated with small increases in the risk of developing high blood pressure. New research suggests that certain DNA changes during fetal development may also lead to the development of high blood pressure later in life.
Some people have a high sensitivity to sodium. This can also run in families.
Sodium sensitivity can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. It is more common in:
- African Americans
- Older adults
- People who have elevated blood pressure, with systolic readings of 120 to 129 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
- People with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome
Unhealthy lifestyle habits
Unhealthy lifestyle habits can increase the risk of high blood pressure. These habits include:
- Unhealthy eating patterns, such as eating too much sodium
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Being physically inactive
Race or ethnicity
High blood pressure is more common in African American adults than in white, Hispanic, or Asian adults. Compared with other racial or ethnic groups, African Americans tend to have higher average blood pressure numbers and get high blood pressure earlier in life.
Before age 55, men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure. After age 55, women are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure.
By NHLBI | Learn more at The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)