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What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Updated on September 9, 2014

Natural Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure

What causes high blood pressure? Do you have HBP? How do you know if you have it or not? High blood pressure (HBP) happens when your heart has to use excessive force, or pressure, to pump your blood through your veins and arteries. HBP greatly increases your risk of having a stroke or heart attack so it's very dangerous if left untreated. So what causes high blood pressure? There are many factors that can cause HBP. Some you can't control, but others you can. This page focuses on the causes of high blood pressure that you can control. Don't let high blood pressure wreck your health.

(Image: Leo Reynolds under Creative Commons)

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What Is High Blood Pressure (HPB)?

What is it, why do I have it, and what can I do about it?

In general, optimum blood pressure is considered to be between 110/65 (110 systolic/65 diastolic) and 120/80. Blood pressure readings between 120/80 and 140/90 are considered to be "high normal" and can probably be managed with simple adjustments to your diet and activity. Any blood pressure level above 140/90 is considered to be dangerously high and requires medical attention - in other words, make an appointment to see your doctor NOW! If your blood pressure level is between 140/90 and 159/99, you have what is known as Stage 1, or mild hypertension. You "may" be able to get it under control by losing weight, exercising more, and changing your diet but you will probably require medication and you definitely need to consult with your doctor. Blood pressure levels between 160/100 and 179/109 are considered Stage 2, or moderate hypertension. If your blood pressure is in this range you will probably need to do a number of things to get it under control, including taking blood pressure medicine. Blood pressure of 180/110 or above is Stage 3, or severe hypertension. If you are in this range, STOP READING RIGHT NOW AND CALL YOUR DOCTOR.. Severe hypertension is called "severe" for a very good reason - it puts you at a very high risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death. Sound scary? It is - but it can be controlled with proper medical treatment and management.

(Image: BostonTx under Creative Commons)

Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally


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High Blood Pressure Rule Number 1:

Listen to your doctor

If you have high blood pressure, the most important thing you can do is listen to your doctor!!! This means taking any medicines prescribed to control your blood pressure and cholesterol even if they're "too expensive." I pay $95 a month for medicine and I figure it's a heck of a lot cheaper than an ambulance ride and a few days in a cardiac ICU. I'm all for natural healing methods (that's what this article is about after all) but when it comes to treating high blood pressure, they should only be tried under a doctor's (as in Licensed MD) supervision.

Rule Number 2:

The life-saving importance of monitoring your blood pressure

If you have HBP, monitoring your blood pressure is very important - even if you are on medication to manage it. Medicine doesn't work 100% of the time as I found out earlier this year. When I checked my pressure one morning it was 210/102. I thought it was a fluke so I checked it again and it was the same. I decided to do some conscious breathing exercises and relax for about 30 minutes to see if I could bring it down. When I checked it again, it had actually gone up a little. I decided to have my wife drive me to urgent care. When I got to urgent care it was up to 225/110 and they told me to go to the hospital. By the time I got to the hospital, my blood pressure was up to 245/140 - the diastolic number was higher than what the systolic number should normally be. The gave me a shot of something to bring it down and let me go home after monitoring me for a couple of hours. I was told I was lucky I didn't have a stroke - and if I hadn't been checking my blood pressure at home I very well could have.

Rule Number 3:

Don't worry about things you CAN'T control

There are many things that can contribute to high blood pressure. Some of them you can control and others you can't. One thing you can control is stress, so don't stress out worrying about the things you can't control. You can't control your age, family history, or genetics, so let them go. Worrying about them will do you absolutely no good and in fact will probably make things worse by increasing your stress level. When it comes to worrying about HBP causes you can't control, "Just Say No."

Rule Number 4:

Take ownership of the things you CAN control

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, what can you worry about? Worry - better, work on - the causes of high blood pressure you can control. Trust me, there are quite a few. For example: being overweight, lack of physical activity, too much salt, too much alcohol, smoking, and stress are all causes of HBP that you have lots of control over. By taking control of the HBP factors that you can control, you may be able to reduce or eliminate your need for medicine to control your high blood pressure (but see Rule Number 1).

Taking ownership of your blood pressure

Controlling what you can control

If you have high blood pressure, chances are some of the reasons are beyond your control. However, the chances are also good that some of the factors involved in your diagnosis are with in your control. So what do you do? Worry about what you can't control or work on what you can control? I think it's more productive to work on what you can control. When I had my last doctor appointment I almost panicked when I saw my blood pressure reading (I think the doctor almost panicked too). I hadn't been following the "take your medicine" part of Rule Number 1 and it showed. In fact it was so high I'm not going to post it in case my wife sees this. I decided right then that I want to live long enough to see my 5 year old son grow up. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home and got my prescriptions filled. When I got home I dusted off all the books I'd bought over the years and promptly forgot. As of January 25, 2011 I am taking ownership of my blood pressure. Here are the areas I found needing work (except for smoking) after a self evaluation. If you have high blood pressure, maybe you'll find the results useful.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure. If you have 3 or 4 drinks a day, your blood pressure will be slightly higher (2 to 4 points systolic and 1 to 2 points diastolic) than if you didn't drink at all. If you are a heavy drinker, your blood pressure may go up much more - 5 to 6 points systolic and 2 to 4 points diastolic. No one knows exactly why alcohol causes high blood pressure (there are many theories though). What's not in question is the fact that excessive alcohol consumption increases blood pressure (in addition to causing other health problems). The kicker is that moderate consumption of alcohol seems to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and heart health. If you are currently drinking too much, moderating your alcohol consumption will help lower your blood pressure. "Don't drink to much. Then again, don't drink too little." When it comes to HBP and alcohol, the key is moderation, not complete abstinence.

When you're in a stressful situation your body releases a surge of hormones that make your heart beat faster and your blood vessels constrict which causes your blood pressure to rise. There's no proof these temporary blood pressure spikes lead to long term high blood pressure, but if you get severely stressed often - like every day or even several times every day - these "temporary spikes" in your blood pressure can cause just as much damage to your heart and blood vessels as chronic high blood pressure. If you already have chronic high blood pressure these spikes are even more dangerous - they could push your blood pressure over the edge and trigger a heart attack or stroke.

Chill Out

Learn to manage stress and control your anger

Stress and anger control issues can lead to serious health problems including triggering a heart attack or stroke. You can't eliminate stress from your life, but you can learn how to manage it. Even though it's over 20 years old, Is It Worth Dying For?: How To Make Stress Work For You - Not Against You is still the best book available on managing and dealing with stress. If you're having trouble dealing with anger, Anger Is a Choice by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips is the best book I've read on anger management (just be aware it's written from a Christian perspective).

One of the leading cause of high blood pressure is being overweight. Why does being overweight cause high blood pressure? Like all the cells in your body, fat cells require blood. The more fat cells you have, the more blood your body needs to keep the fat cells supplied. This increased blood volume takes more pressure to push through your veins, hence more fat cells = higher blood pressure. If you are overweight and you have high blood pressure, one of the most important things you can do to help lower your blood pressure is lose weight. It will also have other health benefits, so lets get to it.

Lighten Up

Taking control of your weight

The key to healthy weight loss is to adopt a healthy, low fat, balanced, and sensible diet. Many fad diets or "diet du jour" are unhealthy, unsustainable, or both. Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease presents a diet and eating plan that is the only system clinically proven to help reverse heart disease without medication or surgery. Eat More, Weigh Less (also by Dr. Ornish) gives more information on diet and eating, and his Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish: 150 Easy, Low-Fat, High-Flavor Recipes has even more healthy but tasty recipes.

A diet high in salt (sodium) can cause high blood pressure in some people. Others eat a diet high in sodium and never develop high blood pressure. Part of the reason may be potassium. If you foods with a lot of sodium, you need to eat other foods high in potassium to balance it out. There are 2 problems with this approach. First, many people don't eat the foods that are high in potassium. The second problem is that a diet high in potassium causes problems for people with heart disease. Since you may already have heart disease if you have high blood pressure, you should consult your doctor before greatly increasing your potassium intake. Most of us are probably better off just restricting our sodium intake.

Low Sodium Recipes for High Blood Pressure

Great taste without all that salt...

As a confirmed salt addict, I know how boring food can taste without a healthy dash of salt (and maybe some butter too). It's possible to acquire a taste for foods cooked with little or no salt but it takes time and it's easier if you use alternate flavorings. The American Heart Association Low-Salt Cookbook offers a complete guide to low sodium cooking and includes many recipes that taste great without using a lot of salt. It's a "life saver" if you're going through salt withdrawal.

Do you get enough exercise?

Why inactivity can cause high blood pressure

The primary reason that a lack of exercise contributes to high blood pressure is that inactivity causes your heart rate to increase while pumping a smaller volume of blood with each beat. Since it is pumping less blood with each beat, it has to pump it at a higher pressure in order for the blood to complete its path through your veins. Conversely if you exercise on a regular basis, over time your heart will start to pump at a lower rate but at a higher volume per beat. Exercise also improves other risk factors of high blood pressure and heart disease, including the strength of your heart and cardiovascular system, circulation, and helps your body use oxygen better. If you're not exercising you need to start NOW.

The Exercise Two-fer

It actually works TWO ways to lower your HBP...

Regular exercise actually helps reduce high blood pressure in two different ways... First, exercise causes endothelial cells along the inner lining of your blood vessels to release nitric oxide. This opens up your blood vessels, reducing the resistance to blood flow, which in turn lowers your blood pressure. The second way exercise helps lower HBP is by lowering stress, which is another major cause of the condition. And just to put some icing on the cake, regular exercise has also been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels.

Hey, Couch Potato!!! - Get OFF the couch and step AWAY from the remote...

IMPORTANT: If you have high blood pressure or heart disease you should not start an exercise program without consulting you doctor. Once that's taken care of if needed, one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure and overall health is start an exercise program. I prefer low impact forms of exercise like walking or bicycle riding that get me out of the house and into sunshine and fresh air. When it's too cold outside or I absolutely need a video game fix with my exercise I use my Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board. It's actually a lot of fun - even my kids love it.

Please Sign My Guestbook - What are you doing to keep your HBP under control?

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    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 3 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, We all know about it and so many people have it but I still think thay do not realize how damaging it really is. Good information.

    • TapIn2U profile image

      TapIn2U 4 years ago

      We think we know all the facts about high blood pressure but there many out there that we still don't. Thanks for the list. Very helpful information, indeed. Fantastic lens! Sundae ;-)

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 4 years ago

      Great article, well written. Great explanation of a heart that has gotten used to taking it easy and pumping less blood at a higher pressure. But you forgot to mention that exercise really reduces stress! I read somewhere that if exercise were a drug, it would be the most prescribed medicine in the world.

    • profile image

      VitaminShopOnline 4 years ago

      This information is very useful to those with high blood pressure and i would highly recommend this page to anybody with high blood pressure. I have read over this article a number of times and i am fascinated now i know key information if i ever develop H,B,P

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was told on Thursday, May 30, 2013, that I have high blood pressure. My Dr pulled out his prescription pad, wrote 2 prescriptions and says he wants to see me in 2 weeks. I know I'm over weight and have not been very active. Which is completely out of character for me. I cook and eat healthy 99% of the time. So I figure my weight is the issue. Bottom line, that Dr pulled out that script pad and that same day I hit the pavement. Since Thursday, I've gone from 221 to 214.4 pounds. And I'm not stopping until I hit my normal weight. I am eating right. Lots of fruits, veggies, fish and ect. But I'm eating a lot less. I've stopped eating until I feel full, I eat until I'm comfortable or even stop just before that. I'm eating what I need, not want. And I've always known how to eat. But getting remarried almost 10 years, to a very sweet guy with eating habits that were completely opposite mine, didn't do me a lot of good. Now changes are being made and he's doing the changes too, as he's found out he's diabetic. I have no intention of spending my life on meds. I want to get back in shape. Oh, the 2nd prescription was for my cholesterol. Not a lot I can do there. It's hereditary. Even 20 years ago when I was in female body building and in the best shape of my life, I ate no junk food, my cholesterol was borderline. So, not sure I can change that one. ( I'm doing this on my phone, so please forgive me if you see typos.)

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 4 years ago

      I only developed high blood pressure within the past few years ... pretty much when I was getting to early retirement age! It was the stress of my divorce that seemed to trigger it -- working on getting a handle on that stress through lots of exercise and proper nutrition and trying not to worry about squidoo lensranks and stuff!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Thanks for this useful information about B/P

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks so much for all the information. I'm a young mother of two and the need me so now I know how to better take care of my hbp.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you for this information. I had not been daily monitoring my blood pressure but I will start. I have a friend who drinks and is a pretty active guy but his bp was high when he checked it last and that's not normal for him. I came to your sight looking for answers. You helped! Thank you!!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Well I just tested my bp , and it was 147/100 with a pulse rate of 122 , should i see the doctor ?

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 4 years ago

      @anonymous: If it was me, I would. Not just for the HBP but also the pulse rate seems kind of high.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It's good to see a post which stresses the importance of checking on your blood pressure and of taking medication if need be. Congrats!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have been dealing with High BP for a year now . Frankly , I am really tried to trying to remember to take my meds. I checked it this morning and it was very high( I did eat fast food a couple days last week) . I have to take control of what I can control. Great lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      good post ! I just checked my blood pressure ( 156/100) freaked out!!!! got on the internet and found this. I have to admit that i have not been taking my Blood pressure med like I am supposed too. Good read. I know that i can bring it under control now.

    • profile image

      momsfunny 5 years ago

      Great lens. You've listed good ways on how to control blood pressure.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Linda BookLady: lindaJM - please email me at and give me some tips

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Linda BookLady: hey LindaJM can u pls tell me what r those things that can bring it down,i ve high blood pressure as well, i m on medication but it doesnot wan to go down pls help.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I have lived with high blood pressure for a long time now, but have found a few things that bring it down, and currently take less medication than before.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      So many wise advise here. You have hit the nail on this one.

    • profile image

      terrancejose 5 years ago

      I used to have various medications suggested by my doc....:)

    • profile image

      Beanosdad 5 years ago

      Great lens - knowledge dispels fear......

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you this has been most helpful and destressing because facts are great weapons against any battle. Much appreciated. Regards Colleen ...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you this information has been really really useful and put my mind and rest and I am going to take some steps to improve my stressful life.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thanks for the information it helped me,and my blood pressure is going good so far

    • kindoak profile image

      kindoak 5 years ago

      Good lens! I quit smoking a bunch of years ago which made a ton of difference on life quality!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thanx, for all the great informnation:)

    • profile image

      dream1983 5 years ago

      Great info, well done! Thumbs up

    • profile image

      dellgirl 5 years ago

      This is such an informative lens. It will surely educate a lot of people about high blood pressure and how to control it. Thank you for sharing. ~~Blessed by a SquidAngel~~

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      it is good to follow the instructions. thank u so much for ur suggestions

      and advises.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great lens. Pinned, G+1 and squidliked, brilliant

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is a terrific lens. I take medication and try to watch my diet. Avoiding too much sodium is my biggest challenge. It seems that all processed foods are full of sodium.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      High blood pressure is called silent killer. It doesn't hurt and if you don't check it regularly you'll notice it when the big damage is already done. By the way, I miss rule no. 2...

      Take care:)

    • profile image

      golfspice 5 years ago

      High blood pressure is known as the silent killer, so getting it checked out is important, especially as you get older. You have some good tips here for reducing high blood pressure and minimising the risk of getting it.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I just had to tell you that this article is so very good. My husband had high BP at a very young age and just recently found out that it was probably due to having diabetes. The medicine he takes for his diabetes has brought his BP down to normal. Just something to consider. I have recommended a Purple Star for this lens.

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 6 years ago

      Good informative lens. Thanks!

    • bestbloodpressu profile image

      bestbloodpressu 6 years ago

      High blood pressure is so dangerous because it has so few physical symptoms. I keep an eye on mine these days with my faithful old Omron blood pressure monitor.

    • profile image

      Pangionedevelopers 6 years ago

      congrats, great info

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I sure am glad that you decided to start taking your medications so you could write this article. Just today, I was talking to my sister and she shared that her husbands BP was a bit high and I thought I should learn a little about it and here you were, a happy coincidence. Well done and blessed!

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      Great information here, thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      just had a Dr visit and he told me that my BP was just a little high. First time I ever heard that! Guess I need to actually start working out instead of just talking about it

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm going to share this with my husband who sometimes has high blood pressure. Many thanks.

    • shalliebey lm profile image

      shalliebey lm 7 years ago

      Thank you for this lens. I think you offer helpful information about the causes of high blood pressure. I learned some new things here.

    • Glenn619 profile image

      Glenn619 7 years ago

      happy on receiving this info. good work and all the best

    • profile image

      the777group lm 7 years ago

      All good advice.

    • tiff0315 profile image

      tiff0315 7 years ago

      Great lens! I will have to give my husband this advice, his blood pressure is through the roof! Of course, it doesn't help that he's a social worker LOL

    • profile image

      ratetea 7 years ago

      I am glad that you're writing about the underlying causes of high blood pressure, as understanding them can be very empowering for those who wish to lower their blood pressure without medication. I'm solidly convinced that only a small portion of people ever need to go on medication (which can be expensive and have unpleasant and/or dangerous side effects) to lower their blood pressure. Thanks for providing this lens; I'd encourage you to keep working on it as this is a big topic and there is always more you can add to it.