Like many chronic health conditions, high blood pressure can — in many cases — be prevented. Doctors don’t always know the exact cause of your hypertension specifically. They do know the contributing factors that likely played a role — and most of them probably could have been avoided.

But most people won’t follow the best high blood pressure diet or adopt a new fitness routine to avoid disaster if they believe they’re healthy — even if they aren’t.

Because the condition does not usually show symptoms, one of the best things you can do to lower your risk is to understand what causes blood pressure to rise — and whether or not those causes are affecting you right now.

Genetics is a complex science. Researchers are still working hard to apply its concepts to medicine and similar fields. But doctors do know that it’s possible to inherit certain genes — and associated health conditions — from your parents. Here’s what we know so far, and how it relates to you.

Genes and high blood pressure

DNA genetics

DNA genetics | Cosmin4000/iStock/Getty Images

There are many risk factors that increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Your genes are one of several factors you can’t control.

According to the National Institutes of Health, multiple large studies have found that your genetic makeup can influence your likelihood of developing high blood pressure.

This means that if a parent or other close family member lives or has lived with high blood pressure, you have a greater chance of developing it, too. But that does not mean that you’re guaranteed to get it because of your family history. Your risk is just higher.

It’s also possible that you inherit not just your parents’ genes, but many of their lifestyle habits as well. You’re more likely to consume foods that increase your high blood pressure risk, for example, if those are the foods you grew up eating at home.

Knowing the possible causes of high blood pressure

Other causes of high blood pressure

There’s a reason you’re not doomed to develop high blood pressure just because one of your parents has it. There are other things you can’t control — such as your face. But there are also a few things you can change 00 such as how much alcohol you drink in a given week.

The most common risk factors that increase your high blood pressure risk include:

  • Your age — Blood pressure tends to increase as you get older
  • Your race/ethnicity
  • Your eating and exercise habits
  • Your alcohol intake
  • Your stress levels (and whether or not you manage it healthfully).

If you know your eating and exercise habits aren’t ideal, or you don’t tend to handle your stress in healthy ways, there’s good news. Even if your blood pressure isn’t looking great, there’s still time to get it under control.

How to prevent high blood pressure

Salmon and vegetables

Salmon and vegetables | Elena_Danileiko/iStock/Getty Images

Unfortunately, you have an even greater chance of developing the condition if you have “bad” genes AND your lifestyle habits aren’t what they should be.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do about that.

Just because you have a higher risk of high blood pressure doesn’t mean you can’t develop habits to prevent it.

Diet and exercise are both ideal places to start. Physical activity makes your heart stronger and makes it easier for blood to get from one part of your body to another. Eating more heart-healthy foods has been shown to decrease your overall heart disease risk.

Once you develop several healthier habits over time, others are likely to follow. Finding activities that relieve stress while exercising your body and mind can also change the way you approach making other positive changes in your life.

Change is hard, and most people won’t do anything differently if they don’t think their health is in danger. You can be the exception.

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