High blood pressure is often linked to lifestyle factors such as diet and obesity but can also be influenced by high levels of the hormone aldosterone.
Researchers from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Southampton universities looked at data on elderly people with high blood pressure and found they were more likely to have high levels of aldosterone, regardless of lifestyle factors.
Aldosterone levels were also found to be higher in those with low birth weights, indicating a link to high blood pressure in later life.
Lead researcher Dr Rebecca Reynolds said: ‘Our findings suggest that the mechanisms which set up how aldosterone is regulated start in early life and this may have an impact on whether we have an increased risk of high blood pressure in later life.
‘It is well known that factors such as stress, diet and obesity play a major role in whether we suffer from high blood pressure but this may suggest why certain people have higher blood pressure than others.’
The research is published in the journal Hypertension.