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Family History and Other Characteristics That Increase Risk for High Blood Pressure

Three generations of women.

Family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles, and environments that can influence their health and their risk for disease. High blood pressure can run in a family, and your risk for high blood pressure can increase based on your age and your race or ethnicity.

Genetics and Family History

When members of a family pass traits from one generation to another through genes, that process is called heredity.

Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of high blood pressure share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.

The risk for high blood pressure can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet.

Find out more about genetics and disease on CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics Web site.

Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions that people in your family have had. Family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing disease. To help people collect and organize their family history information, CDC's Office of Public Health Genomics collaborated with the Surgeon General and other federal agencies to develop a Web-based tool called "My Family Health Portrait."

Other Characteristics

Both men and women can have high blood pressure. Some other characteristics that you cannot control—like your age, race, or ethnicity—can affect your risk for high blood pressure.

  • Age. Because your blood pressure tends to rise as you get older, your risk for high blood pressure increases with age. About 9 of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes.1
  • Sex. Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure at some point during their lives.
  • Race or ethnicity. Blacks develop high blood pressure more often than whites, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, or Alaska Natives. Compared to whites, blacks also develop high blood pressure earlier in life.2


  1. Vasan RS, Beiser A, Seshadri S, et al. Residual lifetime risk for developing hypertension in middle-aged women and men: the Framingham Heart Study. JAMA. 2002;287(10):1003–1010.
  2. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, et al; the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127:e6-245.