What Can Cause Blood Pressure to Spike?

By Bridget Reed
Medically Reviewed by:

Melinda Hany, Registered Nurse

What Can Cause Blood Pressure to Spike?

May 27, 2024

Understanding your blood pressure and how it impacts your overall wellness is a crucial part of working toward a healthier lifestyle. 

In this article, we’ll take you through the what, why, and how of blood pressure spikes, equipping you with the proper knowledge to take control of your health. 

What Is Blood Pressure?

Before we dive into what causes those sudden spikes, let’s define what blood pressure really entails. Think of it as the pressure of the blood in your circulatory system, often likened to the vital force that delivers oxygen and important nutrients to all parts of your body. “Your blood pressure a measure of how easy (or hard) your body has to work to pump blood where it needs to go,” notes Melinda Hany, Registered Nurse.

Your blood pressure measurement is calculated using two numbers:

  • Systolic Pressure: This top number measures how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic Pressure: The bottom number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

Normal blood pressure hovers around less than 120/80 mm Hg. Understanding this is critical because maintaining optimal levels is key to preventing strain on your heart, arteries, and the rest of your body. 

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries is consistently too high. This condition doesn't wave red flags initially — it's often dubbed the "silent killer" because it can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms become obvious. If uncontrolled, it heightens the risk of heart disease, kidney failure, and strokes — making it a stealthy but significant threat to your health.

The parameters for high blood pressure are defined as readings consistently over 130/80 mm Hg. Here's how these numbers break down in terms of health implications:

  • Elevated: The systolic number ranges from 120-129 mm Hg, and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 mm Hg or diastolic between 80-89 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 mm Hg or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg.
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic over 180 mm Hg and/or diastolic over 120 mm Hg, necessitating immediate medical attention.

Understanding these blood pressure levels and their potential impact on your well-being is essential. By monitoring your blood pressure regularly and managing it with care, you're not just looking after your heart and arteries — you're taking a proactive step towards a healthier, more vibrant life. 

It's all about protecting yourself from serious health issues down the road and ensuring you stay as healthy and active as possible.

So, What Are Some Causes of High Blood Pressure?

Now that we’ve gotten a handle on what high blood pressure is, let’s explore what really makes those numbers on your blood pressure monitor jump up. Each of these triggers below plays a role in how your heart, arteries, and entire cardiovascular system operate:

Sudden Stress

Have you ever felt your heart rate pick up during a tense moment? That's your blood pressure responding to stress. 

Whether it's a looming deadline or an unexpected bill, stress can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure by stimulating your nervous system to release a flood of hormones that increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels. “Chronic stress can also have a negative impact on your blood pressure, especially because of the elevated levels of cortisol in your body,” highlights Hany.

Physical Inactivity

Staying active isn't just about keeping fit — it's about keeping your heart and blood vessels in good working order. A lack of physical activity can lead to higher blood pressure over time, as your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body.

Dietary Choices

What you eat has a direct effect on your blood pressure. High-salt diets can cause your body to retain water, which raises blood pressure. Foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats can also contribute to the buildup of plaques in your arteries, which narrows them and increases the pressure needed to move blood through.

Alcohol and Smoking

Having a drink might seem like a good way to unwind, but drinking alcohol excessively can lead to a rise in blood pressure. Similarly, smoking not only harms your lungs but also affects your heart by narrowing your blood vessels.

Lack of Sleep

If you’re cutting corners on sleep, your blood pressure could be creeping up. Poor sleep, especially disorders like sleep apnea, can have a severe impact on your blood pressure, causing it to rise due to irregular breathing patterns and decreased oxygen levels.

Medications and Supplements

Certain over-the-counter medications and supplements can cause your blood pressure to rise. These include some pain relievers, cold medicines, birth control pills, and even weight-loss pills that might stimulate your nervous system.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention for Blood Pressure Spikes?

Navigating the ups and downs of blood pressure can be tricky, especially when you're trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While occasional fluctuations are normal, certain signs indicate it might be time to check in with your healthcare provider:

Persistent High Readings

If you consistently notice readings above 130/80 mm Hg, it’s time to consult your healthcare provider (even without traditional symptoms). High blood pressure can be a stealthy risk factor for more severe health conditions like heart failure and chronic kidney disease.

Symptoms of a Hypertensive Crisis

This is a critical condition! If your blood pressure soars above 180/120 mm Hg and is accompanied by symptoms such as severe chest pain, shortness of breath, severe headaches, or nosebleeds, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Unusual Symptoms

Even without a crisis, symptoms like chronic headaches, dizziness, or unexplained episodes of fainting could indicate underlying issues with blood flow and blood pressure regulation. “If you notice any new or worsening symptoms, talk to your doctor,” Hany adds.

Impact of Lifestyle Changes

If you’ve made significant healthy lifestyle changes or started new medications and still see high readings, your treatment plan might need a review.

Remember, maintaining an open line of communication with your healthcare team and monitoring your blood pressure regularly are important steps in managing your health effectively.

How Can You Proactively Manage Your Blood Pressure?

Navigating the pathways to maintain or lower your blood pressure isn't just about avoiding the bad — it's about embracing good, proactive habits that foster a healthy lifestyle. Here are some heart-smart tips that can help keep those blood pressure readings in check:

Stay Active

Regular physical activity strengthens your heart, allowing it to pump blood with less effort, which lowers the pressure on your arteries. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or cycling, each week.

Monitor Your Diet

Incorporate foods that support vascular health and lower blood pressure to build a healthy diet:

  • Potassium-rich foods like bananas and spinach help balance the amount of sodium in your body.
  • Whole grains and legumes are great for maintaining healthy blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
  • Opt for low-fat dairy to keep cholesterol in check.

Cut Down on Salt

Reducing your salt intake is a smart move when battling blood pressure spikes. Try flavoring your meals with herbs and spices instead of salt. Be mindful of high-sodium packaged foods and condiments like soy sauce and salad dressings.

Avoid Harmful Substances

Tobacco and excessive alcohol can be major saboteurs on your journey to maintaining healthy blood pressure. If smoking or high alcohol intake is part of your lifestyle, consider this: cutting back or quitting can dramatically improve your vascular health and blood pressure readings. Many resources and support systems are available to help reduce these habits, boosting your overall well-being and lowering your risk of high blood pressure.

Manage Stress

Managing stress is key, especially if you're at a higher risk or aiming to maintain a healthy weight. Consider calming activities like yoga, meditation, or regular walks to help lower stress and keep your blood pressure in check.

Sleep Well

A good night's sleep is a pillar of health, yet often overlooked. If you're battling with health problems like sleep apnea, it's important to seek treatment as it can significantly impact your blood pressure and overall heart health. 

Establishing a soothing bedtime routine and creating a comfortable sleep environment can enhance the quality of your rest.

Opt for Tea Over Coffee or Energy Drinks

Enjoying a cup of tea can be both soothing and beneficial — and it’s a great way to swap out that extra cup of Joe or energy drink.

Our Heart Functional Tea is crafted with ingredients like hawthorn berry and ginger, known for supporting overall heart health and blood flow. Pair it with a dash of our Organic Stevia Leaf Sweetener for a touch of natural sweetness without the added sugar.

Check Your Meds

Always review any over-the-counter pills with your doctor, especially if you're taking supplements or blood pressure medications. Certain compounds can raise blood pressure or counteract your prescriptions.

Schedule Regular Check-Ups

Especially if you're navigating risks like a family history of cardiovascular disease or other chronic conditions, regular check-ups are important. They help tailor your health strategies and keep you one step ahead in managing your blood pressure.

The Wrap Up

At Herbaly, we’re passionate about empowering you to take charge of your health, one sip at a time. Managing your blood pressure is important — not just for today, but for a vibrant, energetic future. 

Our Heart Functional Tea is crafted to support your overall wellness, making it a tasty addition to your everyday routine. 


What Is Blood Pressure? | Cleveland Clinic

High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes | cdc.gov

Hypertension? | World Health Organization

High Blood Pressure–Understanding the Silent Killer | FDA

Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Arrest Symptoms | American Heart Association | AHA

Salt and Water Retention | Action on Salt

Physical Activity and Your Heart - Benefits | NHLBI, NIH

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