A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop ]]>hypertension]]> with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing hypertension. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for hypertension include:

Specific Lifestyle Factors

  • ]]>Alcohol use]]>—Drinking alcohol regularly and in large amounts increases blood pressure. This means drinking more than one daily drink for women or two for men.
  • Excess dietary sodium—In susceptible people, a high salt diet may contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Lack of exercise—Moderate to intense exercise, done regularly, improves heart function and promotes healthy arteries. If you’re unaccustomed to exercise, ]]>check with your doctor]]> before beginning an exercise program.
  • Stress—Hormones released by your body when you are under stress can increase your blood pressure. This may aggravate high blood pressure in genetically susceptible individuals.

Medical Conditions

  • ]]>Obesity]]>—Like all tissue, fatty tissue requires a rich blood supply. The heart has to work harder to deliver blood to all the body tissues in heavier people than in leaner people.
  • Other conditions associated with hypertension include:

Certain Medications

  • ]]>Oral contraceptives]]> (birth control pills)—Taking oral contraceptives may increase your risk of hypertension in certain situations. You are more likely to develop high blood pressure while taking birth control pills if you:
    • Have a family history of hypertension
    • Have kidney disease
    • Are overweight
    • Had high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Other medications—Certain drugs can increase your risk of hypertension and/or interfere with medications you may take to lower your blood pressure. These include:
    • Steroids
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Decongestants
    • Diet pills
    • Antidepressants


People age 35 and older are at increased risk of developing hypertension, although anyone, even children, can have high blood pressure.


Men are generally at greater risk for hypertension than pre-menopausal women. After ]]>menopause]]>, though, a woman's risk increases and is slightly greater than that of a man of the same age.

Genetic Factors

Having family members with high blood pressure increases your risk of developing the condition.


Hypertension tends to develop at an earlier age and is more severe in blacks than in whites.