What causes high blood pressure?

What leads to high blood pressure and how can you treat it?

High blood pressure (or hypertension) is the most common circulatory system condition. It often has no symptoms and if left untreated can cause heart disease and stroke.

Approximately 34 per cent of Australians over the age of 18 have high blood pressure and more than two thirds don’t take medication or seek treatment for their condition.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood on your artery walls as it is pumped around your body by your heart. It naturally goes up and down in response to your body’s needs and what you are doing.

High blood pressure is when this blood pressure is consistently higher than normal.

The optimal blood pressure reading is 120/80mmHg or under, however the normal to high range is 120/80mmHg to 139/89mmHg.

High blood pressure is any reading above 140/90mmHg and is considered severe if the pressure reads at 180/120mmHg or above.


There is no way to pin-point the exact cause of high blood pressure but there are factors that can strongly impact it.

These factors are:

  • Family history
  • Eating patterns, including salty foods and high salt intake
  • Alcohol intake above the recommended two standard alcoholic drinks a day
  • Weight
  • Level of physical activity.


According to the experts at House Call Doctor, the best way to know if you have, or are at risk of having, high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked by you GP or health practitioner.

A cuff will be placed around your arm and connected to a device that measures blood pressure.

Many things can cause blood pressure to vary. It can change depending on the time of day or how you are feeling.

Talking to your GP about what your blood pressure level should be will help in deciding whether it is elevated because of environmental factors (for example you may be nervous while the measurement is being taken) or if you do have high blood pressure.


Treatment for high blood pressure is available and consists of self-care and medication.

Self-care treatments include:

  • Physical activity (aerobic activity in particular) for 20-30 minutes 5 days a week to improve cardiovascular health
  • Stress management to reduce stress and improve mental health
  • Quitting smoking
  • Using home blood pressure monitors to keep track of blood pressure and determine when it is high
  • Eating a low sodium diet that restricts salt intake to no more than 5g (2000mg of sodium) a day.

Medications used to treat high blood pressure include:

  • ACE inhibitor: this relaxes the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure
  • Diuretic: increases urine production to rid the body of excess salt and water
  • Beta blocker: slows heart rate and decreases blood pressure
  • Antihypertensive drugs: lowers blood pressure
  • Calcium channel blocker: relaxes the blood vessels
  • Vasodilator: widens the blood vessels.

As high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs, it is important to have it checked regularly. Please contact your GP if you have concerns about your blood pressure.