In most cases, it's not clear exactly what causes high blood pressure (hypertension). But there are several things that can increase your risk.
Who's at risk of high blood pressure
Factors that can raise your risk of developing high blood pressure include:
- age – the risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older
- a family history of high blood pressure
- being of African or Caribbean origin
- a high amount of salt in your food
- lack of exercise
- being overweight
- regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol
- long-term sleep deprivation
Making healthy lifestyle changes can help keep your blood pressure at a normal level.
Known causes of high blood pressure
In about 1 in 20 cases, high blood pressure happens as the result of an underlying health condition or taking a certain medicine.
Health conditions that can cause high blood pressure include:
- kidney disease
- long-term kidney infections
- obstructive sleep apnoea – where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing
- glomerulonephritis – damage to the tiny filters inside the kidneys
- narrowing of the arteries supplying the kidneys
- hormone problems – such as an underactive thyroid, an overactive thyroid, Cushing's syndrome, acromegaly, increased levels of the hormone aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism), and phaeochromocytoma
- lupus – a condition in which the immune system attacks parts of the body, such as the skin, joints and organs
- scleroderma – a condition that causes thickened skin, and sometimes problems with organs and blood vessels
Medicines that can increase your blood pressure include:
- the contraceptive pill
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- some pharmacy cough and cold remedies
- some herbal remedies – particularly those containing liquorice
- some recreational drugs – such as cocaine and amphetamines
- some selective serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI) antidepressants – such as venlafaxine
In these cases, your blood pressure may return to normal once you stop taking the medicine or drug.
Page last reviewed: 23 October 2019
Next review due: 23 October 2022