That's because some of the causes of high blood pressure are anything but obvious. And, left undiagnosed or untreated, high blood pressure can contribute to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries), cardiovascular disease, and even potentially fatal heart attacks and stroke. No good.
If you suspect any of these eight factors might be giving you issues, talk to your doctor about preventative measures:
1. You Live In a Noisy Neighborhood
Being exposed to loud noises at work or at home, especially during the nighttime when you're trying to sleep, has been linked to high blood pressure, according to a study published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Why? Not only is the noise itself stressful (why do your neighbors have to listen to their TV on max volume?!), but it's a double whammy at night as disrupted sleep has also been shown to cause high blood pressure, says Nicole Weinberg, M.D., cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. If noisy neighbours, kids, or pets are keeping you up at night, consider using a white noise machine to drown out the anti-slumber sounds.
2. Your Paycheck Is Tiny
A low hourly wage sucks on multiple levels, and can contribute to many health complications, including high blood pressure—and that's especially true for young women, according to a study published in The European Journal of Public Health.
“Wages are an important factor for people’s general sense of well-being and self-worth,” says J. Paul Leigh, Ph.D., senior author of the study and professor of public health economics at UC Davis. Feeling crappy about yourself (or worrying about paying the bills) can obviously lead to stress—one factor in high blood pressure, Leigh says.
Another factor is that low-paying jobs often don't come with health insurance or the time off to do things like get annual check-ups, Weinberg says. It's also hard to afford healthy food and a gym membership if you're just scraping by, she adds.
3. Sweet And Salty Is Your Jam
Kettle corn. Fries dipped in a milkshake. Sea salt caramels. There's just something so good about sweet and salty mixed together. Yet this delicious snack combo may be hurting your heart, more than eating something sweet or salty alone would, according to research from the American Physiological Society.
"The specific combination of fructose [sugar] and high salt rapidly increased blood pressure, resulting in hypertension," says Kevin Gordish, Ph.D., lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
What the heck? Sugar causes the body to retain extra sodium while also lessening its ability to get rid of the excess salt, he explains. So not only does eating sugar make you crave salty snacks, it forces your body to keep all the salt, which then can cause high blood pressure.
4. You Run On The Road
The more air pollution you're exposed to on a daily basis, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure, even if you're otherwise fit and healthy, says a study published in Hypertension.
Breathing in polluted air leads to inflammation which can cause changes in the arteries, a known factor in high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and heart attacks, explains Tao Liu, Ph.D., lead study author and deputy director and epidemiologist of the environmental health division at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China.
Obviously, you can't directly control the quality of the air where you live, but you can take precautions to avoid it as much as possible, including staying indoors on high-pollution days and avoiding running on busy roads.
5. You Rely On Caffeine
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant. This means it can wake you up, help you stay focused, and even get things moving in the bathroom. But this also means it spikes your blood pressure and stresses your heart, says Amber Khanna, M.D., a cardiologist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.