It is normal for blood pressure to vary slightly throughout the day, but blood pressure that fluctuates from one extreme to the other should be monitored and managed.
Home remedies, lifestyle changes, and some medications can help to regulate blood pressure.
It is important to get it checked regularly because blood pressure can reveal a lot about a person's health.
Causes of fluctuating blood pressure
Below are five factors that can cause dangerous fluctuations in blood pressure.
1. White coat hypertension
Fluctuating blood pressure may be caused by temporary changes or by long-term conditions.
This term describes blood pressure that is higher at the doctor's office, often because the person is anxious about the appointment.
White coat hypertension is not necessarily as concerning as blood pressure that is consistently high.
A 2016 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Hypertension found that people with white coat hypertension had a lower risk of heart disease and a better outlook than people with lasting hypertension.
Certain medications can temporarily reduce blood pressure. They include:
- beta-blockers and other heart medications
- tricyclic antidepressants
- medications for high blood pressure, especially if the dose is too high
- medications for Parkinson's disease
- medications for erectile dysfunction, especially if taken with nitroglycerine
3. Emotional upset, anxiety, and stress
Strong emotions, particularly stress and anxiety, can cause blood pressure to spike. This is the body's natural response to a stressful event, and the pressure will eventually return to normal as the person calms down.
However, long-term stress and untreated anxiety can have lasting, harmful effects on blood pressure and overall health.
Being in a warm room or taking a hot bath can temporarily lower blood pressure. This is usually not a cause for concern, as long as blood pressure does not dip too low.
Symptoms of dangerously low blood pressure include dizziness, nausea, and fainting.
5. Street drugs
Cocaine and methamphetamine can cause extreme spikes in blood pressure.
Stress and anxiety may increase the risk of fluctuating blood pressure.
The factors below may increase the risk of dangerous swings in blood pressure:
- an irregular work schedule, especially one involving night shifts
- smoking and tobacco use
- high levels of stress
- incorrect use of blood pressure medication
- incorrect prescription or dosage of blood pressure medication
- obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
- kidney disease
- diabetes and blood sugar problems
- thyroid problems
- heart disease
- conditions affecting the nervous system
How is fluctuating blood pressure treated?
First, a doctor will determine the underlying cause. They will ask about a person's history and discuss their lifestyle and current medications. The doctor may also order or conduct tests.
Medications can lower blood pressure and prevent dangerous fluctuations. A person may also be able to achieve this by making changes to their lifestyle.
By attending follow-up visits, a person can ensure that their blood pressure remains within normal limits and that medications are not causing unpleasant side effects.
Home remedies and lifestyle changes
The following actions can help to normalize blood pressure:
- Stop smoking: Smoking harms the arteries and causes high blood pressure.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein: Reduce or eliminate added sugars and processed foods.
- Get regular exercise: Moderate-intensity exertion, such as walking at a quick pace, is recommended by the American Heart Association. A person should do this for 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week.
- Limit alcohol consumption: Women should drink no more than one drink per day and men no more than two drinks per day. Drinking more than this can raise blood pressure.
- Find healthy ways to lower stress: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and other techniques to manage stress can help to avoid spikes in blood pressure.
- Consume less sodium: Excessively salty foods can cause sharp increases in blood pressure.
- Reduce the intake of caffeine: Caffeinated drinks can cause temporary spikes in blood pressure, and they may make anxiety worse.
Consult a doctor for personalized guidance.
Fluctuating blood pressure may increase the risk of heart attacks or peripheral artery disease.
Regular fluctuations in blood pressure can increase the risk of:
- a heart attack
- a stroke
- heart failure
- kidney disease or failure
- vision loss
- sexual dysfunction
- peripheral artery disease
A study from 2017 concluded that older adults with daily fluctuations in blood pressure were more likely to develop dementia. This supports the findings of a study from 2016, which suggested a link between high variability in blood pressure and declines in cognitive ability and memory.
Healthy lifestyle choices, and in some cases medication, can resolve fluctuations in blood pressure.
Have blood pressure checked regularly, and seek treatment for any conditions that may affect it.
While fluctuations in blood pressure can be dangerous, medications and lifestyle changes can manage the situation.
After a doctor determines the cause of changing blood pressure, they will help to develop a treatment plan. A person should have their blood pressure checked regularly.
Follow the advice of doctors and take medicines as prescribed.