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 — probably because most older adults have progressed to high blood pressure.
  • Sex. Prehypertension is more common in men than in women.
  • 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.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Not exercising can lead to the development of coronary artery disease, which in turn can increase your blood pressure.
  • Diet high in 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.
  • Excessive alcohol use. Drinking more than two drinks a day if you're a man younger than 65, or more than one drink a day if you're a woman or a man older than age 65 can increase your blood pressure.

Certain chronic conditions — including high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea — may increase the risk of prehypertension as well.

Oct. 10, 2012

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