Skip to content

Stop Doing This or You'll Get High Blood Pressure, Experts Say

Here are five things that are major contributors to high blood pressure.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

High blood pressure is a potentially serious health condition that can weaken and damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of catastrophic illnesses like heart attack or stroke. To reduce your  risk, get your blood pressure checked regularly and follow your doctor's advice on how to keep those numbers in a healthy range. Chances are, they'll recommend that you stop doing these five things that are major contributors to high blood pressure. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Being Sedentary

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

Exercise keeps arteries flexible. Being sedentary causes them to become more rigid. That forces the blood to exert more pressure to keep flowing, leading to high blood pressure. "People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates," says the Mayo Clinic. "The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and the stronger the force on your arteries." For good overall health, the American Heart Assocation recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking or gardening), or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (like running, swimming or rowing) each week.


Eating a High-Sodium Diet

high sodium soup

Eating an unhealthy diet—particularly one that's high in sodium, a.k.a. salt—is a major cause of high blood pressure, experts say. Sodium causes the body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure. Being vigilant about your sodium intake goes beyond putting down the salt shaker. Sodium is used as a preservative or flavor additive in many foods, including some you might not expect, like breads and "healthy" options like canned vegetables and soups. As a consequence, the CDC says that 90% of Americans eat more than the recommended daily limit of sodium —2,300 mg, or about one teaspoon of salt—every day. To stay healthy, check Nutrition Facts labels for sodium levels and limit your consumption of fast foods and processed foods.


Being Overweight or Obese

Woman shows excess fat of the waist while sitting on her sofa.

Carrying excess pounds is another major contributor to high blood pressure. "The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues," the Mayo Clinic explains. "As the amount of blood flow through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls." If you're overweight, losing only about eight pounds reduces your risk of high blood pressure by 50 percent.

RELATED: Things That Put You at Risk for "Too High" Blood Sugar, Says Physician


Drinking Too Much Alcohol

drinking alcohol

"While a little alcohol may relax arteries, too much seems to have the opposite effect," says Johns Hopkins Medicine. To reduce your risk of high blood pressure and other serious health problems, experts advise drinking alcohol only in moderation. That means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

RELATED: Daily Habits You Must Follow If High Cholesterol Runs In Your Family


Chronically Stressing Out

woman stressed with work

Turns out, that stereotypical cartoon image of a stressed-out character with sky-high blood pressure has a lot of grounding in reality. According to the American Heart Association, stress can play a role in the development of heart disease by worsening high blood pressure and encouraging unhealthy behaviors like overeating or drinking too much alcohol. To reduce your risk, find healthy ways to cope with stress, including exercise, relaxation exercises and meditation. If you're having trouble chilling out, your doctor can help.

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael