Blood Pressure

Last Updated: August 17 2022

Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on blood vessels as it circulates. High blood pressure (hypertension) and low blood pressure (hypotension) can each lead to a variety of health issues.

Overview

Blood pressure (BP) refers to the force that blood exerts on the blood vessels as it circulates through your body. It plays a central role in heart health: cardiovascular disease risk is strongly associated with an increase in blood pressure, even when BP is within normal range.[1][2]

As your blood pressure increases, it strains your blood vessels and heart. If it remains too high (hypertension), this can increase your risk for heart attacks, strokes, vascular diseases, eye damage, kidney disease, and more.

As your BP drops, the pressure on the blood vessel walls decreases. If it remains too low (hypotension), you may not get enough oxygen to critical parts of your body, such as the brain and heart.

There are multiple risk factors that can contribute to the development of high blood pressure.

  • Age: As you age, blood pressure tends to go up.
  • Family history: Nearly 100 genetic variations have been associated with high blood pressure. While a family history of high BP raises your risk, the exact pattern of genetic inheritance is not known.
  • Lifestyle: Too much sodium (salt), insufficient potassium, not enough exercise, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking can all contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Race/ethnicity: Black adults experience high blood pressure more frequently.
  • Sex: Prior to age 55, males are more likely to develop high blood pressure. After 55, females are more likely to develop it.
  • Weight: People who carry too much fat have an increased risk of high blood pressure.

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