Risk factors for prehypertension include:

  • Being overweight or obese. A primary risk factor is being overweight. The greater your body mass, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the force on your artery walls.
  • Age. Younger adults are more likely to have prehypertension than are older adults. Many older adults have progressed to high blood pressure, and the risk of high blood pressure increases as you age.
  • Sex. Prehypertension is more common in men than in women. Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
  • Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites.
  • Family history of high blood pressure. High blood pressure tends to run in families. If a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, has high blood pressure, you're more likely to develop the condition.
  • Not being physically active. Not exercising can increase your risk of high blood pressure and increase your risk of being overweight.
  • Diet high in salt (sodium) or low in potassium. Sodium and potassium are two key nutrients in the way your body regulates your blood pressure. If you have too much sodium or too little potassium in your diet, you're more likely to have high blood pressure.
  • Tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco or even being around other people who are smoking (secondhand smoke) can increase your blood pressure.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Drinking more than two drinks a day if you're a man age 65 or younger or more than one drink a day if you're a woman of any age or a man older than age 65 can increase your blood pressure. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
  • Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions — including kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea — may increase the risk of prehypertension.

Although prehypertension and high blood pressure are most common in adults, children may be at risk, too. For some children, high blood pressure is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, poor lifestyle habits, such as an unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise, contribute to prehypertension and high blood pressure.

June 23, 2015