One of the dangers of high blood pressure is that it can damage the delicate blood vessels of the kidneys. When the blood vessels are damaged, they cannot properly remove wastes and extra fluid from the body. The extra fluid that accumulates can raise blood pressure even more. This dangerous cycle is one reason why high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure.

People with kidney failure (end-stage renal disease) must either receive a kidney transplant or have regular blood-cleansing treatments called dialysis. Unfortunately, high blood pressure causes more than 25,000 new cases of kidney failure in the United States each year. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the dangers of high blood pressure.

Key risk factors for high blood pressure:

Family history: Having one or more family members with high blood pressure increases your risk profile.

Smoking: Using tobacco raises your blood pressure. Chemicals in smoke can also damage the lining of your arteries, causing them to narrow and increase blood pressure.

Being overweight or obese: The more you weigh, the greater likelihood of getting high blood pressure.

Physical inactivity: People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates, which makes the heart work harder and increases blood pressure.

Salt: Too much salt (sodium) can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases your blood pressure.

Race: High blood pressure is particularly common among African-Americans, and often develops at an earlier age.

Chronic conditions: Certain chronic problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure.