Hypertension is a major cause of premature death in China. Understanding risk factors including behavioural and predisposing factors may help to prevent development of hypertension and control the extent of premature mortality. In this case-control design conducted in Hunan province, 416 hypertensive subjects were matched with an equal number of normotensive persons from nearly 9,000 volunteers. A self-report questionnaire was employed to collect demographic and lifestyle information, and fasting serum biomarkers related to lipid profile, renal function, glucose level and uric acid were assessed. When age and sex were stratified, serum biomarkers such as blood urea nitrogen and triglycerides showed a significant difference for hypertension, while lifestyle behaviours including university degree, alcohol use, Body Mass Index and psychological stress (job and married life) were also associated with hypertension. After adjusting for covariate confounding factors, only elevated triglyceride levels were strongly linked to high blood pressure, odds ratio = 1.55, 95 per cent confidence level = 1.16–2.06. To control high blood pressure, hypertriglyceridemia should be included in hypertension treatment and followed up to assess the substantial risk of cardiovascular diseases.