You may have heard to watch the amount of salt you eat, especially if you’re worried about your blood pressure. That’s because it keeps your body in water, putting extra pressure on your heart and blood vessels. Salt – and worry, and anger – aren’t the only things that can raise your blood pressure. While a temporary “spike” isn’t necessarily a problem, keeping the numbers high for a long time can do serious damage.
It may be more important than salt in raising your blood pressure, especially in processed forms like high fructose corn syrup. People who added more sugar to their diets saw a significant rise in their upper and lower numbers. Just one 24-ounce soft drink caused an average 15-point bump in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
It’s not just about how many friends you have – it’s about feeling connected. And stress or depression doesn’t fully explain that effect. It can also get worse over time. Over a four-year period, the loneliest people in one study saw their upper blood pressure rise by more than 14 points. Researchers believe that a constant fear of rejection and disappointment, as well as feeling more vigilant about your safety and security, may change how your body works.
People who have sleep apnea have a higher chance of getting high blood pressure and other heart problems. When your breathing is repeatedly interrupted while you sleep, your nervous system releases chemicals that raise your blood pressure. Plus, you get less oxygen, which can damage blood vessel walls and make it harder for your body to regulate your blood pressure down the road.
Inadequate potassium levels
Your kidneys need a balance of sodium and potassium to keep the right amount of fluid in your blood. Therefore, even if you eat a low-salt diet, you may still have higher blood pressure if you don’t also eat enough fruits, vegetables, beans, low-fat dairy products or fish. While you may think of bananas as the preferred source, if you’re watching your weight, broccoli, water chestnuts, spinach and other green leafy vegetables are more likely to get potassium.
Sudden or acute pain can excite your nervous system and raise your blood pressure. You can see this effect when you place a hand in ice water, press your cheek or fingernails, or receive an electric shock to your fingers.
Do you take ginkgo biloba, ginseng, guarana, ephedra, bitter orange or St. John’s Wort? These and other medications can raise your blood pressure or change the way your medications work, including medications that control high blood pressure.
When this gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, your heart rate slows down and your arteries get less stretched. Low hormone levels may also raise your LDL “bad” cholesterol, another thing that can stiffen your arteries. Blood moves faster through hardened blood vessels, pushing walls and raising pressure. While not common, too much thyroid hormone can make your heart beat harder and faster, which can also bump up your numbers.
You have to pee.
Systolic blood pressure rose on average by about 4 points, and diastolic blood pressure, by 3 points, in the study of middle-aged women who hadn’t been to the bathroom for at least 3 hours. Similar effects were seen in men and women of different ages. High blood pressure becomes more likely as you get older, so you need to get accurate readings. An empty bladder may be one way to help do this.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
All NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can boost your numbers – whether you’re healthy or already have high blood pressure. While the average rise is only a few points, the wide range means that it can affect some people much more than others.
Your doctor’s office
If you compare the readings during your appointment with the numbers you get at home, you may see a difference. The ‘white coat effect’ is a rise in blood pressure – 10 points higher in systolic (upper) and 5 points higher in diastolic (lower) – that can happen simply because of where you are. The cause of the bulge is likely nerves or anxiety.
Ingredients like pseudoephedrine and norepinephrine narrow your blood vessels. This means that the same amount of blood has to squeeze through a smaller space, like a crowd squeezing through a hallway. These medications can also make blood pressure medications less effective. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you choose over-the-counter products for sinus problems and colds, which are safer if you have high blood pressure.
When your body’s cells don’t have enough water, your blood vessels tighten. This is because your brain sends a signal to your pituitary gland to release a chemical that constricts your blood vessels. And your kidneys reduce urine to hold on to the fluid you have, which also triggers tiny blood vessels in your heart and brain to squeeze more.
Pills, injections, and other birth control devices use hormones that narrow blood vessels, so it’s possible that your blood pressure could rise. It’s more likely to be a problem for women who are over age 35, overweight, or who smoke. You may want to keep an eye on your blood pressure, checking it every 6 to 12 months. A lower dose of estrogen may bring your numbers closer to normal.
This happens whether you’re young or old, wherever you are. The higher your resting blood pressure, the higher the number will be when you start talking. And this effect lasts for a few minutes. It seems that the subject matter and emotional content of what you say is more important than the way you move your mouth.
Drugs that target brain chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin – including venlafaxine (Effexor), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) – can change not only your mood, but also your blood pressure. If you’re also taking lithium or other drugs that affect serotonin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may raise your blood pressure.