Hypertension is when your blood pounds on the walls of blood vessels as it flows through them. When there is an obstruction in the path or when the blood flow is not smooth or easy, it ends up in higher pressure and workload for the heart. Hypertension is therefore taken in the same line as heart disease, as the higher the pressure more the chances of life-threatening complications.
Normal blood pressure range is 120 mmHg at the systolic and 80 mmHg at the diastolic levels, and anything above this is classified into different stages of hypertension severity.
Primary and secondary hypertension
The most common and more prevalent form of hypertension is the primary or essential hypertension where the cause for high blood pressure is unknown. It is the most commonly found form of hypertension in the world. It affects around 95% of all patients with hypertension in the USA.
Of course, secondary hypertension is where you know what causes the surge in blood pressure, which also helps in choosing the right treatment options for the patients.
We have discussed types of high blood pressure more in detail previously.
In this article, we will go into detail about the various causes behind secondary hypertension.
Causes of hypertension
Blood sugar and blood pressure
It is well-known that high blood pressure can lead to many different complications like that of diabetes. It has scientifically demonstrated that hyperglycemia or higher blood sugar levels can also lead to higher blood pressure.
According to the study published by the British Journal of Pharmacology, when the sugar levels increase in our blood, it can promote narrowing of the blood vessels called atherosclerosis. This impacts blood pressure levels considerably. If untreated, it can further lead to heart diseases, kidney failure and other life-threatening complications.
The study further details that the blood vessels contract stronger than usual when the blood sugars are high which results in more pressure on the heart, leading to higher blood pressure.
Hyperglycemia or the blood sugar is therefore considered as a risk factor for hypertension, especially in patients who have Type 1 diabetes.
Cholesterol and hypertension
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that the body uses for; producing hormones and vitamin D, and for other essential processes. While some of the cholesterol we need is produced within our bodies, some are ingested through the food we eat.
When the cholesterol levels increase, the excess of this fatty substance will stick like oil on the walls of arteries, narrowing them down and causing atherosclerosis. The plaque-like substance on the arteries become hardened, and resist smooth blood flow, making your heart work harder than before. This eventually increases the blood pressure in your blood vessels resulting in hypertension.
When atherosclerosis completely blocks the blood flow, it may cause a severe cardiovascular incidence such as ‘heart attack’. Having both high cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to permanent damage to your heart and other organs like eyes and kidneys.
Keeping your cholesterol in check will also help you to keep a check on the blood pressure levels by default.
Kidney disease and hypertension
It is well-known that kidney diseases are among the major causes of blood pressure. Higher blood pressure can even result in kidney failure.
The high blood pressure can also be a result of kidney disease where the arteries pumping blood to the kidneys are narrowed or blocked causing high blood pressure in the kidney, which doctors call as ‘renal hypertension’.
This condition of narrowed or blocked the kidney arteries is called ‘renal artery stenosis’. As the blood flow to the kidneys reduces, the kidneys start producing hormones to make water and sodium, like in the case of dehydration. This excess fluid in the blood vessels also increases the blood pressure.
Sometimes, people have abnormal development of the renal arteries by birth which can also lead to atherosclerosis or narrowed arteries, further leading to hypertension.
Another cause would be the overactive renin-angiotensin system in our body. When the sodium levels in our body are low and the potassium is high, kidney releases an enzyme called renin. The renin thus produced stimulates the production of angiotensin further resulting in a higher stimulation of aldosterone hormone, which works to increase the sodium levels causing higher blood pressure.
Other factors causing hypertension
Apart from the above three main medical factors that influence the blood pressure in our body, there are also other risk factors which can result in hypertension.
- Age is a predominant factor for many illnesses, and hypertension is one among them. With age, the body stops processing at the same speed as before, and the arteries become much stiffer too. It is found that people who are above the age of 60 predominantly have stiffer arteries which result in higher blood pressure.
- Obesity is another risk factor for hypertension. With more fat, the chances of high cholesterol in the blood increases and thereby higher fat deposits in arteries are unavoidable. Moreover, when the body weight is more, the heart takes more effort to pump the blood through to all organs. Additionally, obesity generally results in diabetes and sleep apnea, another two causes associated with hypertension.
- Genetics is a reason for hypertension as found by many studies. People who have a family history of high blood pressure are more prone to get it than others. It is significant within people from the family share the same environmental and other factors that result in hypertension. When combined with an unhealthy lifestyle, the risk for hypertension becomes even higher.
- Your ethnic background can also play a role. Studies indicate the prevalence of high blood pressure in African-Americans compared to other races. It could be due to eating habits, the lifestyle they follow or various other factors. While there is no concrete reason behind the statistics, it is a fact that ethnicity has a role to play in hypertension.
- The food can have an impact on the blood pressure both positively and adversely. Ingestion of trans fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, salt and sugar, found more in processed foods and other junk eatables can result in many diseases including hypertension.
- Alcoholism and smoking are two habits that have a significant impact on cardiovascular health. It is found that smoking can cause an immediate spike in blood pressure by about 4 mmHg. The nicotine results in constriction of the blood vessels which increase the blood pressure. Alcohol works similarly and cutting back on these two habits have been found useful in lowering the blood pressure levels.
Irrespective of the cause for the spike in blood pressure, it can be brought down considerably by making a few changes to your unhealthy habits and lifestyle. Maintaining a balanced diet with physical activity and routine monitoring of your blood pressure levels can help you to live fit and healthy for a more extended period.