Six surprising hypertension risk factors
High blood pressure
It’s estimated that one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Ever wondered what causes this common condition? Genetics, obesity, old age, smoking, and heavy drinking are all well-known causes of hypertension — but there are some other lesser known risk factors as well.
At Mango Health, we believe it’s important to be as well-informed about your health as you possibly can — so read up on these six unexpected lifestyle elements that are linked to high blood pressure. You might be surprised!Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep can sometimes be a challenge — particularly if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Sleeplessness can come in a variety of forms, whether it’s an inability to stay asleep, or a tendency to wake up before you’ve had enough rest.
Chronic insomnia is when people regularly need longer than 14 minutes to fall asleep, and according to the American Heart Association, a recent study suggests that those with this severe sleeplessness face a greater risk of hypertension.
Researchers have long noted the association between high blood pressure and low vitamin D levels, but a study published last year in The Lancet suggests that lack of vitamin D actually plays a causal role in hypertension. Although further research is needed, this finding suggests that vitamin D supplements might one day be prescribed to help control blood pressure.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for a free source of this essential nutrient, spend some time in the sunshine. Sunlight not only converts cholesterol to vitamin D, but it also feels great on the skin.
Not all sports are stress-free
You would think that being active while playing sports would be good for your health — but not all sports are completely stress-free. The intense physical impact inherent to American football actually puts players at an increased risk, say researchers at Georgia Regents University, because the body’s inflammatory response to injury drives up blood pressure.
Professional football players often experience long-term effects of hypertension, and these athletes are more likely to suffer from health problems later in life. However, the good news is that for young or more casual players, blood pressure usually returns to normal at the end of the season.
Where you live impacts your health
Believe it or not, where you live can have an effect on your heart health. In 2014, a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that post-menopausal women who lived next to a major roadway had a 22% greater risk of hypertension, even after accounting for socioeconomic factors.
Although researchers haven’t definitively explained the link, some suggest the higher blood pressure comes from greater noise or more airborne pollutants. While your job or family may keep you in urban areas, it’s always worth taking some time to enjoy the great outdoors for the sake of your heart health!
Alcohol and blood pressure
It’s a well known fact that excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure, and a study published in Clinical & Experimental Research suggests that people who experience red, flushed cheeks while drinking are also more likely to experience alcohol-related hypertension.
A response that’s more common in women, the elderly, and people of East Asian descent, flushed cheeks while drinking indicates a genetic inability to break down acetaldehyde, a metabolite of alcohol. If you experience this high sensitivity or even intolerance to alcohol, the good news is that limiting your intake can greatly moderate any drinking-related elevation of blood pressure.
Whether you’re feeling bored or a little bit down, an easy solution can be to reach for your favorite comfort foods — often to excess. However, a study carried out by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) showed that compulsively binging on high-fat and high-sugar foods can lead to metabolic changes that can trigger hypertension.
If you find yourself prone to binge eating, watch out for your triggers and find ways to cut back. For instance, if you find that stress at work has you reaching for a piece of chocolate every afternoon, identify ways to reduce stress and establish healthier eating habits instead.
Do any of these risk factors apply to you?
You may want to see your doctor for a blood pressure check. If you’re already taking medications or supplements for hypertension, check out Mango Health, a free smartphone app that makes it fun and easy to develop healthy habits.
The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Journal of the American Heart Association
Clinical & Experimental Research