arteryQ: How did I get high blood pressure?

A: More than 9 out of 10 cases of high blood pressure are called “essential hypertension.” What this means is simply that there is no specific cause. We do know that diet and lifestyle have an impact. Salt sensitivity is a big contributor. People in northern Japan eat more salt than any other people — and they have the highest rates of high blood pressure.

We also see more high blood pressure in people who are overweight, have diabetes, are under stress, drink heavily, and never exercise.

About 1 case in 20 is “secondary hypertension” with a specific cause. Among all the causes, kidney disease is the most common. Medications, including birth control pills, can also cause high blood pressure.

But whether it’s essential hypertension or secondary hypertension, it needs to be managed. High blood pressure can kill. Untreated, it leads to both heart attacks and strokes.

The good news is that we have a lot of tools for managing high blood pressure once this “silent killer” has been uncovered. If you have untreated high blood pressure, or if you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, make an appointment with your health coach today.