What Causes Blood Pressure to Spike Up and Down?
Sudden blood pressure spikes can be indicative of an underlying health issue. Whether you already have hypertension or you’ve just noticed that you’re experiencing fluctuations, it’s crucial that you identify what might be causing these spikes.
Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day due to many factors. This can include everything from the food that you eat to how active you are in your everyday lifestyle. But, blood pressure spiking up and down suddenly isn’t normal. It’s a problem that should be taken seriously.
Not everyone experiences symptoms. While that might seem like a good thing, the absence of any warning signs can make the volatility even more dangerous. That’s why high blood pressure is often referred to as a ‘silent killer.’
Understanding the potential reasons why your blood pressure might be jumping so suddenly can help you make the necessary modifications to your diet and lifestyle. You may need medical attention or medication if it’s an underlying condition.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Causes Fluctuating Blood Pressure in Adults?
- 1.1 1] What You Eat and Drink
- 1.2 2] Exercise and Activity
- 1.3 3] Stress and Anxiety
- 1.4 4] Jump in Blood Pressure Due to Medication
- 1.5 5] Tobacco and Alcohol Use
- 1.6 6] Medical Conditions
- 1.7 7] Pheochromocytoma
- 1.8 8] Elderly and Fluctuating Blood Pressure
- 1.8.1 What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure Spikes?
- 1.8.2 Complications of Sudden Jumps in Blood Pressure
- 1.8.3 What Should I Do if I Have Sudden Blood Pressure Spikes?
- 1.8.4 How Are Blood Pressure Spikes Treated?
- 1.8.5 How to Manage Blood Pressure Naturally
- 1.8.6 Should I Be Concerned About a Sudden Spike in Blood Pressure?
What Causes Fluctuating Blood Pressure in Adults?
This guide will explore the different causes of blood pressure spikes. Knowing these causes can prevent more severe problems that extraordinarily high or low blood pressure can cause. Even though some people don’t encounter any symptoms from blood pressure fluctuations, they should be treated correctly. If they aren’t, you could be putting your health at risk.
We’ll also look at solutions you can use to keep your blood pressure stabilized. It’s normal for your blood pressure to experience changes each day. But, huge spikes are more of a cause for concern. Being able to keep your blood pressure relatively steady will reduce your risk of life-threatening medical conditions.
1] What You Eat and Drink
Maintaining a healthy diet every day is vital when it comes to keeping your blood pressure at a stable level. Too much salt (sodium) can raise your blood pressure over time. The best thing you can do for your blood pressure (and general health) is to eat a well-balanced diet of lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
But, if you notice sudden blood pressure spikes, it could also be the result of what you’re eating or drinking. Foods that have been aged or preserved somehow usually contain high levels of a substance called tyramine. According to the Mayo Clinic, tyramine can increase your blood pressure. So, if you regularly eat aged foods, you might experience a higher spike every time.
Foods high in tyramine typically include anything that’s been pickled or brined. Try to avoid these foods for a while to see if your blood pressure seems more stable. If it does, you’ll have a better idea if it’s a specific food causing the problem.
According to Harvard University, another food item that can cause sudden blood pressure spikes is caffeine.
Caffeine is found in favorite foods and drinks like:
- Coffee and tea
- Soda (cola, energy drinks)
Many people eat or drink highly-caffeinated foods to feel more alert. But, these foods and drinks can also cause a jolt to your blood pressure for a period of time.
If you limit your intake of these foods and don’t eat them every day, you shouldn’t be putting yourself at too much a risk of potential complications. Be mindful of your diet and how it affects your blood pressure.
2] Exercise and Activity
When you get your blood pressure taken, you’ll notice there are two numbers on the reading: systolic blood pressure (top number) and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number).
Any exercise causes your systolic blood pressure to rise. This is because your body needs more blood to go to your muscles during cardiovascular and weight-training exercises. Some people become worried because this number is going up so quickly, but in most cases, it’s perfectly reasonable. You don’t have to perform a strenuous exercise routine for your blood pressure to jump. It can spike due to almost any type of physical activity, including laughing.
Unless you experience any adverse symptoms along with these sudden spikes, they’re usually nothing to worry about. Wait for about 30 minutes after the activity, and your levels should be healthy once again.
3] Stress and Anxiety
When you feel stressed out or nervous about something, you’ll probably notice that your heart beats faster. During these stressful times, your blood pressure might suddenly spike, too. The good news is these spikes are temporary. Once that moment of anxiety passes, your blood pressure should go back to its resting state.
If you find that you’re regularly nervous or anxious about things, you could be at risk. Stress can damage your cardiovascular system. As a result, your blood pressure will rise to make up for it, and you might develop hypertension.
It’s impossible to avoid stress altogether. But, according to Healthline, you should limit stress and anxiety in your life. For some people, that’s as easy as doing deep breathing exercises or taking on less work. For others, certain therapies or medications may be needed.
4] Jump in Blood Pressure Due to Medication
Even though medications are designed to assist with certain health conditions, most of them have adverse side effects. Some medications can affect your blood pressure by causing huge spikes up or down.
If you’re already on medication for blood pressure, you might notice that it drops down too low at times. In these cases, your prescription may need to be adjusted by your doctor.
Even over-the-counter medications can cause sudden spikes in your blood pressure. This includes things like cold medicine or meds for allergies. Use these medications sparingly. If you notice that they make you feel strange or you start to experience other symptoms, you should stop using them immediately.
5] Tobacco and Alcohol Use
Smoking and excessive drinking are often linked to sudden changes in blood pressure levels. For example, the nicotine in one cigarette narrows your arteries. It makes it harder for your blood to flow freely through them and puts you at a higher risk for a stroke.
About twenty minutes after smoking a cigarette or cigar, your blood pressure levels should go back down. Of course, that’s only until the next one. The best thing you can do is quit completely to avoid these spikes and potential complications.
Some studies have shown that drinking one glass of alcohol a day can be beneficial to your blood pressure. But, excessive drinking has the opposite effect. Heavy drinking (3 or more drinks in one sitting) can increase your blood pressure quickly. This can lead to serious heart conditions.
Having a glass of alcohol every now and then isn’t going to do much damage to your body. But, you should limit your alcohol intake as much as possible, especially if you already have high blood pressure.
6] Medical Conditions
Sometimes, abnormal blood pressure fluctuations can be caused by health conditions you already have.
Some of the most common conditions associated with blood pressure spikes and drops include:
- Thyroid issues
- Kidney disease
- Cardiovascular disease
Managing the condition you have is the best way to control your blood pressure levels, too. If you’re unaware that you may have one of the conditions listed above and you’re not sure why your blood pressure levels change so often, you should see your doctor. They may perform tests to determine if you do, in fact, have one of the above health concerns.
Pheochromocytoma is a tumor that forms in your body’s adrenal glands. It’s rare, and typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 50. But, anyone can get it.
How does pheochromocytoma affect blood pressure levels? Your adrenal glands produce hormones. When they are fatigued, you might experience a sudden drop in blood pressure. But, if you have pheochromocytoma, the tumor itself can secrete more hormones. Because of this, it can create sudden bursts and spikes in your blood pressure levels. In between these spikes, your readings may be perfectly normal.
You might also experience other symptoms with pheochromocytoma, such as:
- Rapid heartbeat
- A headache
The best way to treat this growth is to have it surgically removed. Once the tumor is gone, the symptoms should go away. This is a condition that needs to be diagnosed through lab testing. So, if you feel like you might have pheochromocytoma, talk to your doctor about the type of test that needs to be done to get a diagnosis.
8] Elderly and Fluctuating Blood Pressure
Often, blood pressure levels will go up with age. This is mostly due to changes in the arteries as they become stiffer. It also may have to do with hormonal changes in your body or inefficiencies of the heart.
Many older adults manage their high blood pressure just fine with certain medications and healthy lifestyle choices.
Sudden dips in blood pressure levels aren’t uncommon for older individuals, either. A condition called orthostatic hypotension is relatively common among the elderly. This is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure after sitting or lying down for a while. Fluctuating blood pressure and dizziness tend to go hand-in-hand with this particular condition. You might feel light-headed or dizzy for a while until your blood pressure levels return to normal. Some people may even faint or fall due to this problem.
Orthostatic hypotension can also occur in people who are severely dehydrated. This, too, can be an issue that affects the elderly more than others. But, everyone should be aware of it. If you feel dizzy or faint when you stand up, it could be because you’re experiencing dehydration. It’s vital that everyone gets enough water in their system, especially seniors who are more at risk for these sudden dips.
The best thing you can do to keep your blood pressure levels steady as you age is to exercise, eat healthily, don’t smoke or drink, and take medication if needed. Don’t get up too quickly from a sitting or lying position. Instead, give yourself (and your body) time to adjust to standing slowly. If you do stand up and start to feel dizzy, you should carefully sit back down until the feeling subsides. Or, ask someone for help to get you to a standing position safely.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure Spikes?
If you have hypertension, you might not regularly experience any symptoms. But, blood pressure spikes can be a different story for some people. In some cases, though, they can be harmful to your health.
An extreme spike in your blood pressure is known as a hypertensive crisis. This is usually defined as a systolic blood pressure level of 180 or higher and a diastolic level of 120 or higher. Pressure this high could cause too much of a strain on your blood vessels and result in permanent damage. As a result, blood could leak out from the vessels.
Sudden jumps can have a variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
- A headache
- Shortness of breath
Immediate medical care is needed if you experience a spike this high and experience any of the above symptoms. A hypertensive crisis should be considered urgent or an emergency. If it goes untreated, it could cause severe damage to your vital organs.
Complications of Sudden Jumps in Blood Pressure
Whether your blood pressure quickly jumps too high or dips too low, it should always be taken seriously. If these jumps happen due to exercise or stress, you probably don’t have too much to worry about.
But, if the spikes happen frequently and you’re not seeking medical attention, you could be putting yourself at risk for certain health conditions. Those conditions could be much more severe.
Specific conditions that could develop due to blood pressure spikes include:
- Heart attack and heart disease
- Kidney failure
These jumps could also lead to permanent hypertension. If stress or other lifestyle choices are the cause of your spikes, you could be slowly building up your blood pressure over time to an unhealthy level. If that does happen, you may need to take a medication. Meds include Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin-2 receptor blockers.
These conditions develop over time, but spikes in your blood pressure shouldn’t be ignored. If they keep happening and lead to consistently-high levels, you could be developing a more severe health condition without even realizing it. Hypertension isn’t the only risk, as you can see.
What Should I Do if I Have Sudden Blood Pressure Spikes?
Because you may not display any symptoms, you should monitor your blood pressure levels regularly. This is crucial if you already have hypertension. Checking it several times a day will enable to understand what are normal readings for you.
If you do notice sudden jumps in your blood pressure, you should start a log. Your log should be a record of when the spikes occurred and what your numbers were at that time. You should also note what you had been doing at the time, and how long it took for your blood pressure to reach a healthy level again.
You can show this record to your doctor. They may notice specific patterns, or you may be able to link the jumps to certain activities, medications, etc. You’ll then be able to make the necessary adjustments to keep the problem under control.
How Are Blood Pressure Spikes Treated?
Unless you have an underlying health condition or you already have high blood pressure, you may not need to treat the spikes in your numbers. But, there are things you can do to reduce the risk further.
Aside from regularly monitoring the situation, you should make healthy lifestyle choices that balance out your levels. You should adhere to any prescribed medications from your doctor. It’s true that blood pressure medications can sometimes cause spikes to occur. But, for many people, these medications work exceptionally well.
How to Manage Blood Pressure Naturally
Even if you don’t need medication for high blood pressure, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to keep your readings at a healthy level. Thankfully, there are things you can do every day that will be beneficial.
These ‘solutions’ don’t guarantee that you’ll never experience blood pressure volatility again. But, they can be used on their own or with medication to manage the problem. That way, you’ll be at less risk of a dangerous health condition.
Here are some of the changes you can make:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Diet and exercise are among the best ways to manage your blood pressure at home. If you’re new to exercise, start slowly and don’t over-exert yourself. Remember that physical activity can cause your blood pressure to rise for a short time. Your diet should include whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Try to limit your caffeine intake.
- Reduce sodium intake: Sodium can have a direct effect on hypertension. Even reducing your sodium by a small amount each day can have a significant impact.
- De-stress: You may not be able to remove stress from your life completely. But, if stress tends to cause your blood pressure to spike, you need to find ways to control it. Anything from meditation to short breaks throughout the day can be helpful.
- Stop smoking and drinking: It can be hard to completely quit smoking or drinking if you do it on a regular basis. Unfortunately, if these choices are causing your blood pressure to rise all of a sudden, quitting tobacco products entirely is the correct decision.
- Consider your medications: If you’re unsure about what might be causing your blood pressure to fluctuate, look at the list of medications that you’re taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs. Talk to your doctor about how certain medications can potentially affect you. There may be alternatives you can take that won’t cause temporary high blood pressure spikes.
Should I Be Concerned About a Sudden Spike in Blood Pressure?
Often, you won’t even notice highs and lows in your blood pressure. Just as hypertension doesn’t have any symptoms, neither do the fluctuations. That’s why you must monitor your blood pressure regularly, in case something might be wrong.
You need to figure out what’s causing the volatility. Sometimes, it can be an easy fix, and you can manage your blood pressure with some straightforward lifestyle changes. Other times, medication may be needed to keep any swings in blood pressure under control.
It’s understandable that spikes in your blood pressure can be a little unnerving. We hope this guide has given you some peace of mind on what you can expect and what might be behind the problem.