Though essential hypertension remains somewhat mysterious, it has been linked to certain risk factors. High blood pressure tends to run in families and is more likely to affect men than women. Age and race also play a role. In the United States, blacks are twice as likely as whites to have high blood pressure, although the gap begins to narrow around age 44. After age 65, black women have the highest incidence of high blood pressure.
Dementia. Dementia is a brain disease resulting in problems with thinking, speaking, reasoning, memory, vision and movement. There are a number of causes of dementia. One cause, vascular dementia, can result from narrowing and blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. It can also result from strokes caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. In either case, high blood pressure may be the culprit.

When discussing blood pressure issues, the healthcare professional may ask questions about past medical history, family history, and medication use, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and food additives. Other questions may include lifestyle habits, including activity levels, smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal drug use.
An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, is one of the more common secondary causes of IDH. As in primary hypertension, the elevated diastolic pressure is the result of excessive arteriolar narrowing. Hypothyroidism may be suspected in a person with weight gain, fatigue, and intolerance to the cold, but blood tests are required to confirm the diagnosis. Endocrine diseases producing high levels of aldosterone, parathyroid hormone, or corticosteroids can also cause IDH.
Although the inability to have and maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction) becomes increasingly common in men as they reach age 50, it's even more likely to occur if they have high blood pressure, too. Over time, high blood pressure damages the lining of your blood vessels and causes your arteries to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis), limiting blood flow. This means less blood is able to flow to your penis. For some men, the decreased blood flow makes it difficult to achieve and maintain erections — often referred to as erectile dysfunction. The problem is fairly common, especially among men who are not treating their high blood pressure.

SPEAKER: Whether you have high blood pressure or want to avoid getting it, cut back on these types of foods to make your heart happier. If it's full of saturated fat take a step back. Eat less butter, whole cheese, regular salad dressing, fried goodies, and fatty meat. Also steer clear of foods with artificial trans fat. This lab-made flavor booster is bad for your heart. Check the label for word like hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Next, avoid sodium overload. There can be lots of it hiding in foods that may not taste super salty, such as bread, cake, and canned veggies. Watch out for the usual sodium suspects too, like pizza, soup, cold cuts, and fast food. Finally, sip smartly if you drink alcohol. Limit yourself to one drink a day if you're a woman and two if you're a man. To take the next step toward better blood pressure, fill up on whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean protein.
High cholesterol is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. That can include coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. High cholesterol has also been linked to diabetes and high blood pressure. To prevent or manage these conditions, work with your doctor to see what steps you need to take to lower your cholesterol.
Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
Medicines are available if these changes do not help control your blood pressure within 3 to 6 months. Diuretics help rid your body of water and sodium. ACE inhibitors block the enzyme that raises your blood pressure. Other types of medicines— beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other vasodilators—work in different ways, but their overall effect is to help relax and widen your blood vessels and reduce the pressure inside the vessel. [See also the free government publication “Medicines to Help You: High Blood Pressure” (PDF) from the US Food and Drug Administration.]
In some cases, medication is necessary to lower blood pressure. It really depends on how high your blood pressure is and other risk factors, like family history of heart attack and stroke. Based on these risks and your current lifestyle, your doctor may prescribe common hypertension medications like lisinopril, amlodipine, losartan, and hydrochlorothiazide.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

Nuts, legumes, and seeds are rich in magnesium, protein, and fiber. Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. Enjoy as many as five servings of these foods each week. That’s 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or a 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans or peas in each serving. Grab a handful of seeds or nuts as a snack. Or add beans to your salads or soups.
Blood pressure isn’t just a number. Chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction, eye disease (retinopathy), and kidney disease. Heart disease and stroke are two of the top five causes of death in the US (heart disease is #1), and hypertension is such a big contributor to both that the CDC claims hypertension was at least partially responsible for 410,000 deaths in the US in 2014.
Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
Exercise stress test: More commonly used for patients with borderline hypertension. This usually involves pedaling a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill. The stress test assesses how the body's cardiovascular system responds to increased physical activity. If the patient has hypertension this data is important to know before the exercise test starts. The test monitors the electrical activity of the heart, as well as the patient's blood pressure during exercise. An exercise stress test sometimes reveals problems that are not apparent when the body is resting. Imaging scans of the heart's blood supply might be done at the same time.
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