Smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, excess sodium in the diet and excessive alcohol consumption all cause high blood pressure, notes WebMD. Aging, genetics, stress, thyroid and adrenal disorders, sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease are additional causes. People with a family history of high blood pressure are also more prone to develop the condition.
As many as 95 percent of high blood pressure cases have no apparent cause, notes WebMD. When this happens, the high blood pressure is known as essential hypertension. Risk factors for essential hypertension include being an African American, particularly African American woman age 65 and older, or being male.
People who are more likely to develop high blood pressure include inactive, obese people over age 35. Pregnant women are also susceptible to high blood pressure, as are people who eat fatty foods or take birth control medication, notes WebMD.
High blood pressure in some people is treated with lifestyle changes, including restricting sodium, exercising, stopping smoking and losing weight, notes the American Heart Association. Medications may also be prescribed for treating high blood pressure. If left untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and heart failure, heart attack, peripheral artery disease, kidney disease and stroke.