Between an abundance of unhealthy foods, long hours spent at a desk and chronic stress, it’s no wonder that nearly 1 in every 3 American adults has high blood pressure. As you probably know, high blood pressure can be a serious condition increasing your risk of a heart attack, strokeand a number of other health conditions.
However, for some individuals high blood pressure readingsmay be abnormal. There are a number of factors that can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure. One of the most common examples of this is white coat syndrome, or a phenomenon in which the stress of being in a clinical setting causes people to have high blood pressure readings.
While you shouldn’t assume that you’re high blood pressure readings are fleeting, there is a chance that you may be increasing it without even knowing it. According to Rashmi Kulkarni, MD, a family medicine specialist, these are some of the surprising ways you may be spiking your blood pressure:
Stress & anxiety. When you’re experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety, your body responds by releasing hormones that constrict blood vessels and increase heart rate—the result is high blood pressure.
Medication. There are a number of medications that can cause an increase in blood pressure, both short-term and long-term. For instance, medications that are taken on a regular basis, such as birth control pills can contribute to high blood pressure. Other medications that are taken inconsistently, such as NSAIDs(e.g., aspirin and ibuprofen), can also impact blood pressure.
Salty foods. Whether you’re enjoying a hot slice of pizza, a fresh deli sandwich or a few crunchy chips, all of these foods can cause a spike in blood pressure. When you eat salty foodslike these, your body retains more fluid and releases hormones that help in the digestion process. As a result, your blood pressure and heart rate may temporarily increase.
Alcohol. While some studies show that red wine may be beneficial for heart health, the key is moderation. For instance, if you have more than three alcoholic drinks in one sitting, your blood pressure will rapidly increase. Over time, binge drinkingcan lead to long-term high blood pressure.
Smoking. Whenever you smoke, you cause an immediate spike in blood pressure. Oftentimes this isn’t just a short-term increase. Over time smoking can impact the health of your blood vessels, as well as cause inflammation throughout your circulatory system and a hardening of the arteries throughout your body.
High blood pressure…now what?
Whether your high blood pressure is the result of a temporary spike, or more likely a long term condition, there are easy ways to lower it! Simple, everyday changes like keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and reducing sodium will all help to lower your blood pressure and support overall health.