This is not medical advice.
Stress and hypertension go hand-in-hand, and both are growing health concerns for millennials. Millennials — people born between 1981 and 1996 — suffer from higher rates of hypertension and other physical ailments than their Generation X counterparts, according to a 2019 study by Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Hypertension and similar conditions are exacerbated by living and working in stressful environments, but the solution is not as easy as packing up and leaving home. Here’s what you should know about hypertension, from its triggers and causes to preventative measures you can take to mitigate your risks.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, a common yet dangerous condition that can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.
Blood pressure is a measure of how much blood your heart pumps through your body and the resistance to blood flow in your arteries. It is expressed as two numbers. One, called systolic pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries while your heart beats. The other, diastolic pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries between beats. When you have hypertension, your blood pressure reading will be above 120/80 mmHg, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
What Triggers Hypertension?
If you struggle with high blood pressure or it runs in your family, there are certain triggers that might exacerbate your hypertension. Here are some common triggers for hypertension in millennials.
High levels of stress are known to increase the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) your body produces, sending you into fight-or-flight mode and raising your blood pressure. Chronic stress is especially hard on the body and can lead to serious long-term problems.
Lack Of Physical Activity
Regular exercise is critical to your overall health and managing your blood pressure. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for millennials to find time for sufficient physical activity while balancing work and other responsibilities.
Being overweight or obese can put a lot of strain on your heart and raise your blood pressure. In addition to physical activity, it’s important to eat a balanced, healthy diet.
Drug And Alcohol Use
Many young adults partake in recreational drug and alcohol use. But excessive drinking and drug use can hurt your health — especially your heart and your blood pressure.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Hypertension
There are two types of hypertension: primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension typically doesn’t have an identifiable cause and develops gradually over the years. Secondary hypertension results from other underlying conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Common causes of secondary hypertension include the following:
- Obstructive sleep apnea.
- Kidney disease.
- Adrenal gland tumors.
- Thyroid problems.
- Congenital birth defects in blood vessels.
- Certain medications and illegal drugs.
Certain habits and conditions can trigger hypertension, such as limited physical activity, stress, drug and alcohol use and obesity. Here are other common risk factors for hypertension:
- Age: The older you get, the higher your risk of developing high blood pressure. That doesn’t mean millennials are too young to experience the condition — especially if there are other causes and risk factors at play.
- Race: Anyone from any race can develop high blood pressure, but it is especially common among those of African heritage.
- Family history: Hypertension tends to run in families. If an immediate family member deals with high blood pressure, you might be susceptible to developing it, too.
- Poor diet: An unhealthy and unbalanced diet can be a risk factor for developing hypertension. Consuming too much sodium and too little potassium can increase your blood pressure.
- Certain chronic conditions: Chronic conditions are linked to hypertension. It’s important to monitor your symptoms and get regular checkups to ensure you’re managing your chronic illness and your blood pressure.
If you have any of these risk factors you’ll want to address them with your doctor to ensure you’re doing everything you can to mitigate your risk of hypertension. There are many natural ways you can prevent high blood pressure, such as stress management, a healthier diet, more physical activity and managing underlying conditions.
When it comes to age, race, and family history, keep these factors to keep in mind so you can properly evaluate your risks. If you haven’t had a wellness exam in a while, now might be a good time to consider making an appointment with your primary care physician.
Why Bay Area Millennials Are At Higher Risk For Hypertension
A 2020 Bay Area News Group poll revealed that 71 percent of voters felt the Bay Area’s quality of life has declined over the past five years. This can be attributed to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, troubling weather patterns, high unemployment rates and other issues.
The following percentage of respondents felt that the issues listed below were problems facing the Bay Area.
- Drought: 84 percent, up 41 percent from 2020.
- Water supply: 80 percent, up 32 percent from 2020.
- Unemployment: 47 percent, up 30 percent from 2020.
- Division between political parties: 76 percent. up 18 percent from 2020.
- Crime: 64 percent, up 18 percent from2020.
- Wildfires: 85 percent, up 15 percent from 2020.
- Cost of housing: 92 percent, up 6 percent from 2020.
- Climate change: 70 percent, up 2 percent from 2020.
Residing in the Bay Area, especially as a millennial, can be stressful. With its high cost and low quality of life, the Bay Area can feel like an unpredictable environment. That can contribute to health concerns such as hypertension.
How To Prevent Hypertension
Hypertension is often hereditary or caused by another illness, but there are preventative measures you can take to mitigate your risks. They include reducing stress, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and treating underlying conditions.
Many doctors will put patients on medication to treat hypertension before it can lead to more serious conditions such as heart disease or stroke. If your doctor prescribes blood pressure medication, the GoodRx app can help you save up to 80 percent off retail prescription prices.
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