Fluctuating Blood Pressure: Causes and Treatments

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Fluctuating Blood PressureMany factors contribute to the rise and fall of your blood pressure, including daily stressors.

Fluctuating blood pressure levels may be attributed to your rate of breathing, certain foods or drinks, or the hour of the day.

A blood pressure reading can reflect the health of our heart and other underlying conditions. An abnormally low blood pressure may lead to fainting and blurred vision spells, while high blood pressure may cause major concern for stroke and heart attack.

A recent study suggests fluctuating blood pressure in the elderly may affect brain function. Know the facts and learn how to treat fluctuations naturally.

What is Blood Pressure?

Our powerful heart can pump about five liters of blood per minute. Blood pressure is the amount of force the blood puts on our blood vessel walls. The two numbers in a blood pressure reading measure the force as the heart contracts (systolic pressure) and the force when the heart relaxes (diastolic pressure). By monitoring these figures, we can prevent serious health issues.

What Is a Normal, Low, and High Blood Pressure Reading?

Before we can understand the causes and treatments behind blood pressure fluctuations, we need to fully comprehend the difference between normal, low, and high readings.

Normal Blood Pressure

The American Heart Association suggests a healthy blood pressure should measure less than 120 mmHg for systolic and less than 80mmHg for diastolic pressure. To calculate your normal range, keep a journal of your blood pressure readings over a short time period. Monitor it during rest periods.

Low Blood Pressure

A systolic reading of less than 90 mmHg and a diastolic reading of less than 60 mmHg is considered low blood pressure. Known as hypotension, a low reading signals insufficient nutrients and oxygen intake of organs. Symptoms may include dizziness, blurred vision, fainting spells, nausea, thirst, and shallow breathing.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is known as hypertension and can cause headaches but may not present symptoms until there is damage to the blood vessels. This can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. Systolic readings are consistently shown above 140 mmHg with the diastolic readings hovering at 90 mmHg. High blood pressure can be detected early with systolic readings between 120 mmHg and 139 mmHg and any diastolic reading ranging from 80 to 90 mmHg. This is referred to as prehypertension.

Causes of Fluctuating Blood Pressure

There are many reasons why a normal blood pressure reading may fluctuate between high and low. It can happen suddenly and depends your on existing health condition. A difference of more than 20 points in the reading, in either direction, may indicate a serious health issue.

Stress

Our body experiences major biochemical changes when we are under physical or emotional stress. You can expect a rise in blood sugar and blood pressure levels as well as an increase in heart and respiration rates. These changes occur because your heart is pumping the blood harder due to the constricting of the peripheral arteries.

Medications

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause fluctuations in blood pressure. These can range from acetaminophen to decongestants and anti-inflammatory drugs. Any use of recreational drugs can have serious consequences with fluctuating levels.

Caffeine

Researchers suspect caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in vast fluctuations depending on tolerance level and amount consumed. More than two cups of coffee can raise blood pressure from 4 to 13 mmHg.

Food

Sensitivity to foods items such as sodium may cause fluctuation in blood pressure levels. Any trigger foods can temporarily raise blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Fever

A high body temperature due to infection can raise blood pressure levels as your blood vessels constrict when your heart rate speeds up.

Dehydration

Dehydration can cause blood pressure levels to lower and increase in unique ways. Orthostatic hypotension, low blood pressure that occurs when standing up from a sitting position, can cause hypovolemic shock, a condition if not treated can result in death within hours. Dehydration can also cause your blood pressure to raise dramatically as your thickened blood needs to be forced to move through the blood vessels.

Potential Danger of Fluctuating Blood Pressure

A recent cohort study of 1,000 Chinese men and women suggested that fluctuating blood pressure in the elderly between doctor’s visits can lead to decreased functioning of the brain. Findings were based on the China Health and Nutrition Survey, and followed 976 older adults who had three or more visits with blood pressure measurements from 1991 up to their first cognitive tests, and completed follow up cognitive tests at two or more visits in 1997, 2000, or 2004.

Researchers note that more studies and clinical trials need to be done, but early findings showed an association between higher long-term blood pressure fluctuations and faster rates of cognitive decline.

“Controlling BP (blood pressure) instability could possibly be a strategy in preserving cognitive function among older adults,” researchers wrote in the study published in the journal Hypertension by the American Heart Association.

How to Manage Blood Pressure Naturally

You may be able to manage fluctuation of your blood pressure levels with a few lifestyle changes, including healthy eating.

Monitor Weight

A few extra pounds around your waistline can increase your blood pressure levels. Your risk for issues rises with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women. Your levels can even change from weight-related issues such as sleep apnea.

Exercise

In addition to prompting good overall health, just 30 minutes of exercise each day can lower high blood pressure levels and prevent hypertension. You may lower your pressure readings by 4 to 13 mmHg with walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, and strength training, according to Mayo Clinic.

Maintain Good Eating Habits

Follow the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet to lower blood pressure levels. This calls for a daily diet of grains, vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy. A few tips to help you along the way include reading food labels to know what you are eating, keeping a food journal, and adding potassium to your diet. Potassium can counteract the affects of sodium on blood pressure.

Reduce Sodium

You may be able to lower blood pressure points by 2 to 8 mmHg by cutting back on sodium.  Sodium can affect people in various ways based on their age, race, gender, and existing health condition. Experts recommended keeping sodium levels under 2,300 milligrams per day. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, older than 51 years of age, or African-American should limit their sodium intake to under 1,500 milligrams daily.

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol can reduce your blood pressure points by 2 to 4 mmHg when consumed in small amounts. Consuming more than two drinks daily increases the risk for high blood pressure in men under the age of 65. More than one drink daily increases the risk for women of all ages and men over 65 years of age.

Avoid Tobacco

Your blood pressure rises and remains at high levels for a period of time after smoking a cigarette.

Avoid Stress

Eliminate the stress in your life where you can. For situations out of your control, identify the trigger of the stress before trying to deal with it. Allow time for you and your family by not taking on too many tasks, both in your professional and personal life. Re-evaluate your life and find inner satisfaction with your accomplishments.

Dealing with fluctuating blood pressure levels can seem overwhelming, especially as we rarely take time to care for ourselves. It is important to your health and future time with loved ones to take control of any blood pressure issues. Monitor your blood pressure levels with a home monitor, maintain a healthy diet, and avoid triggers such as stress and smoking. If you are finding it difficult to make the necessary changes, lean on family and friends for support as well as any one of the community support groups in your neighborhood or online.


Sources:

Chandler, S., “High & Low Blood Pressure Fluctuations,” Livestrong, August 16, 2013; http://www.livestrong.com/article/288427-high-low-blood-pressure-fluctuations/, last accessed March 2, 2017.

“Visit-to-Visit Variability In Blood Pressure Is Related to Late-Life Cognitive Decline,” American Heart Association Hypertension journal, May 23, 2016; http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/68/1/106, last accessed March 2, 2017.

“Fluctuating Blood Pressure,” New Health Advisor; http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Fluctuating-Blood-Pressure.html, last accessed March 2, 2017.

“High Blood Pressure (Hypertension),” Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20046974, last accessed March 2, 2017.


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