There are many reasons for fluctuating blood pressure, from the foods we eat to serious health conditions. Understanding your fluctuating blood pressure can help you protect your heart and lower your risk of any cardiovascular events.
There is an ongoing debate on what is considered healthy or normal blood pressure, but the general consensus is a reading of less than 120/80 mmHg. Blood pressure can fluctuate in a second, so if you’re concerned about yours, you should check it frequently and chart the results for your doctor to review.
Below we will outline the many different causes of fluctuating blood pressure along with tips to help manage your blood pressure.
Food sensitivities: Consuming foods that don’t agree with us can cause a spike in blood pressure. This is commonly seen in salt sensitivities or after consuming high amounts of salt. Although this issue will resolve on its own a few hours after consuming the trigger food, you may want to make diet changes in order to prevent future fluctuations.
Stress: During times of stress, our arteries constrict, causing the heart to work harder. This in turn raises blood pressure along with blood sugar and heart rate. If you live with chronic stress, this constant strain on the heart can lead to artery and heart damage, increasing your risk of a cardiovascular event.
Caffeine consumption: Caffeine is a stimulant, so our hearts tend to race when we consume something containing caffeine. As a result, a faster-pumping heart causes blood pressure to rise. This usually resolves within a few hours. Regular caffeine consumers may not notice the changes, but those who consume caffeine infrequently will.
Medications: Certain medications, such as decongestants and anti-inflammatories, may result in a temporary elevation of blood pressure. Illegal drugs tend to have the highest impact on blood pressure, which is what in part makes them life threatening.
Adrenal fatigue: The adrenals regulate different hormones and can take a toll on your cardiovascular health. When the adrenals become fatigued – for example, as a result of chronic stress or illness – they cannot regulate blood pressure properly, so it rises and falls.
Fever: Often a result of fighting infection, a fever can speed up heart rate, leading to a rise in blood pressure.
Calcium or cholesterol deposits in the arteries: The arteries become narrower when lined with calcium or cholesterol deposits, so the heart must work harder in order to push the blood through.
Dehydration: Insufficient hydration can result in blood pressure fluctuations with a large decrease.
A study found that increased blood pressure fluctuations are linked to impaired cognitive function in older adults. Researchers investigated visit-to-visit blood pressure variability with cognitive function among seniors who were at a high risk for cardiovascular disease.
The study looked at 5,461 seniors over the age of 70 with an average follow-up time of three years.
Blood pressure was measured every three months in the same clinical setting, and the variability between the measurements was analyzed.
Selective attention and reaction time, general cognitive speed, immediate and delayed memory performance were also assessed.
The researchers found that blood pressure variability was associated with worse performance on all cognitive tests, and the results remained the same even after taking into consideration cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Higher visit-to-visit blood pressure variability was associated with lower cognitive function, as well as higher stroke risk.
Researcher Simon Mooijaart explained, “We showed that high visit-to-visit systolic and diastolic blood pressure variability associates with worse performance in different domains of cognitive function, including selection attention, processing speed, immediate verbal memory, and delayed verbal memory.”
Whether higher blood pressure variability is a cause or a result of cognitive impairment is still unclear.
The researchers concluded, “Higher visit-to-visit blood pressure variability independent of average blood pressure might be a potential risk factor with worse cognitive performance in older subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Fluctuating blood pressure has been linked to the development of dementia. A study involving over 1,600 older adults found that over a five-year period of having fluctuating blood pressure, participants had doubled their risk of developing dementia despite not have any prior dementia-like symptoms. This was attributed to blood variations being significantly associated with the development of all-cause dementia, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of average home blood pressure.
Post-menopausal women have also been linked to severe consequences due to fluctuating blood pressure levels. This time, a high risk of stroke was the resulting outcome. A study found that after adjusting for age, estrogen use, and other factors, there was a 12 percent increase in the number of strokes for every 5 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure variability. An overall increased risk of cerebrovascular disease, which includes stroke and other disorders affecting blood vessels in the brain, is affected by fluctuating blood pressure.
In order to manage your blood pressure fluctuations, it’s important to understand their cause. For example, avoiding trigger foods, staying well hydrated, reducing your LDL cholesterol, preventing illness and fever, watching your caffeine intake, and reducing stress naturally can all help better manage your blood pressure fluctuations.
Generally, to maintain healthy blood pressure, it’s important to quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, reduce stress, sleep well, and maintain a healthy weight. By making these healthy lifestyle adjustments you can achieve healthier blood pressure readings.