Causes of high blood pressure 

In more than 90% of cases, the cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) is unknown but several factors can increase your risk of developing the condition.

Where there is no specific cause, high blood pressure is referred to by doctors as primary or essential hypertension.

Factors that can raise your risk of developing primary hypertension include:

  • age – the risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older
  • a family history of high blood pressure (the condition seems to run in families)
  • being of African or Caribbean origin
  • a high amount of salt in your food 
  • a lack of exercise
  • being overweight or obese
  • smoking 
  • drinking large amounts of alcohol

Known causes

About 10% of high blood pressure cases are the result of an underlying condition or cause. These cases are referred to as secondary hypertension.  

Common causes of secondary hypertension include:

Find out about how to get your blood pressure tested.


Page last reviewed: 04/07/2014

Next review due: 04/07/2016