How Young Can High Blood Pressure Start?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious cardiovascular issue. If you’re blood pressure is too high, it can lead to heart problems such as heart attack and possibly death. Often, you hear about hypertension affecting people in their older years. But at what age should you begin monitoring your blood pressure? Hint: Younger than you think.

Nurse checking a patient's blood pressure

High blood pressure doesn’t only affect older people. | Zinkevych/iStock/Getty Images

High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack

High blood pressure is common, but it isn’t good. When you have hypertension, it means the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be. It’s measured by the force of blood cells against your artery walls. Essentially, when you have high blood pressure, the blood cells require more force to get through your body. Over time, the artery walls (through which the blood passes) become thicker as a result of pushing blood through. When the artery walls become too thick, they create blockage that prevents the heart from working properly. This causes a heart attack. Heart attacks are not always fatal, but they can be if the proper medical attention isn’t sought.

High blood pressure can hit as early as your 20s, but the risk increases with age

The idea that high blood pressure only affects “old” people isn’t true at all. Actually, habits that you develop as a youth can lead to hypertension as early as your 20s. It isn’t too common, but according medlineplus.gov, which is run by the National Institute of Health, a recent study found that 19% of young adults, or nearly 1 in 5 people between the ages of 24 and 32, have high blood pressure. The study revealed the prevalence of high blood pressure in young adults is far greater than was once believed.

It’s no secret that most diseases become more prevalent as you age, which may be why young people feel invincible to things such as hypertension. But some people are predisposed to heart complications, which is why it shouldn’t be overlooked. And others develop unhealthy habits from a very young age, which leads to obesity in their youth and can speed up the onset of high blood pressure. Roughly 1 in 3 adults in the United States lives with high blood pressure.

Forming good diet and exercise habits in your youth can keep your blood pressure stable

While hypertension can be genetic, there are plenty of things young people can do to avoid becoming a statistic. The best way to avoid high blood pressure at such a young age — or at any age — is to eat healthy and exercise daily. Daily exercise gets the heart pumping. Your heart is a muscle, and it needs to be used frequently in order to be as strong and functional as possible.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as watching your salt intake are other great ways to avoid hypertension. Salty foods contain sodium, which affects the body’s ability to filter your blood. It causes the blood cells to retain water, making it harder for them to pass through the arteries. This thickens the artery walls, leading to high blood pressure and eventually a heart attack.

A healthy lifestyle starts from a young age. You may be young, but it doesn’t mean you’re invincible.

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