Is High Blood Pressure Hereditary?

High blood pressure or hypertension is a medical condition in which the blood continues to put more force on the walls of your arteries. The excess pressure can cause health problems over time. Your blood pressure is the combination of the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries and the total amount of blood your heart pumps throughout the body. Your blood pressure will be on the higher side if your heart pumps more blood and your arteries are narrow. There are steps to take to lower your risk of developing hypertension, but many people believe they cannot do much because hypertension runs in the family. Is it really so? Let's find out more.

Is High Blood Pressure Hereditary?

The truth is that high blood pressure can be hereditary considering the fact that family members share behaviors, genes, environments, and lifestyles that make them more susceptible to developing hypertension. Experts believe that genetics have a role to play in the development of hypertension, and the risk increases even more when heredity combines with some unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as eating unbalanced diet and smoking cigarettes.

However, it is also true that you cannot control certain factors that increase your risk for high blood pressure. For instance:

  • Age: Your blood pressure goes up with age, so you are likely to develop hypertension when you do not practice healthy lifestyle habits as you grow old.
  • Race or Ethnicity: Statistics show that whites are less likely to develop hypertension as compared to blacks. Similarly, blacks are at a greater risk of developing hypertension as compared to Pacific Islanders, Asians, Hispanics, Alaska Natives, or American Indians.

Your risk of developing high blood pressure increases also with some environmental factors – such as obesity, smoking, or lack of exercise. Is high blood pressure hereditary? Many studies have helped answer this question to some extent and found that there are 29 genetic variations across 28 regions of the genome that increase your risk of developing hypertension. Researchers are conducting new studies though to help identify genes that affect your blood pressure.

Other Factors That Increase Your Risk

Is high blood pressure hereditary? There is some evidence that it is. However, hypertension is generally a combination of several factors working together. Some risk factors include:

  • Obesity: Your risk of developing hypertension and heart disease increases when you are obese. You are overweight if your body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 30. Anyone with a BMI greater than 30 is considered obese, and one in three children in the United States falls in this category. Excess weight raises your triglycerides and blood cholesterol levels, puts additional strain on the heart, and lowers good cholesterol levels. You can lower your blood pressure by losing 10-20 pounds, but be sure to achieve this through healthy dieting and exercise.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Your circulatory system becomes affected depending on how active you are. An inactive lifestyle puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and blood vessel disease. Besides, you are more likely to become obese due to a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Gender-Related Risk Patterns: Men are more likely to develop hypertension by the age of 45 as compared to women. The percentages are usually the same for both men and women from ages 45 to 64. After the age 64, women are at a greater risk of developing hypertension as compared to men.
  • Poor Diet: You need to stick to healthy eating habits and eliminate anything that is high in fats, calories, and sugars. High salt intake may also increase your risk for hypertension, but some people are more salt sensitive and get affected easily with a high salt diet. Excess salt intake leads to water retention that can put excessive burden on the heart.
  • Excess Alcohol: Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk for hypertension dramatically. You may also have to deal with issues such as stroke, heart failure, and irregular heartbeats. Drinking too much alcohol may also increase your triglycerides levels and increase risk for alcoholism, obesity, and cancer. Avoid alcohol if possible but at least try to drink in moderation. Men should not have more than two drinks a day, whereas women should limit it to one drink per day. One drink equals a 4oz glass of wine, a 12oz beer, 1oz of hard liquor and 1.5oz of 80-proof liquor.
  • Stress: Not being able to manage stress in the right way increases your chances of developing hypertension. Your blood pressure increases temporarily when you are under stress, but being under stress for long can cause damage to your cardiovascular system. Some people begin overeating when they are stressed, and these bad dieting habits increase body weight, thus increasing your risk for hypertension.
  • Smoking: Both smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke increases your risk of having hypertension and damaged arteries. You increase your risk even more when you have other risk factors and smoke as well.
  • Sleep Apnea: In this condition, you stop breathing for a short time while sleeping. This potentially life-threatening disorder can make you feel tired during the day because you have to go through several sleep-wake cycles during the night. Sleep apnea also increases your risk for other medical problems such as diabetes, heart failure, and stroke. 
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