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What Causes Blood Pressure To Fluctuate?

Blood pressure is regulated by the presence of baroreceptors in the walls of the arteries and veins. When pressure rises or falls, these receptors send signals to the brain. A reflex response then regulates the flow of blood by either causing the heart beat to increase or decrease.

Despite this self correcting mechanism, some factors can destabilise normal blood pressure even in healthy patients. There are several answers to the question “What causes blood pressure to fluctuate?” Some of the main reasons are listed below:

  • The use of certain medications. These include drugs used to treat depression, Parkinson’s disease, and of course, hypertension. Anti-hypertensive drugs like diuretics, beta blockers, and angiotensin receptor blockers only decrease blood pressure, they do not increase it.
  • Inefficient adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are responsible for maintaining normal cardiac function via the release of certain hormones such as cortisol. The inefficiency of these glands may arise due to a number of reasons such as Addisons disease, whereby the adrenal glands are damaged and cannot produce the hormones, pheochromocytoma (tumors on the adrenal glands), or secondary adrenal insufficiency, whereby the glands are not stimulated enough to produce cortisol.
  • Mental or physical stress. Physical stress may be due to strenuous exercise such as climbing a mountain, whereas emotional stress may be triggered by any psychological trauma.
  • The hardening of arteries. The elasticity of the artery wall helps to maintain normal blood pressure. The hardening of arteries (arteriosclerosis) and deposition of fatty plaques (atherosclerosis) significantly decrease this elasticity.
  • Increased caffeine consumption. Sensitivity to caffeine and certain foods are also known to cause blood pressure to rise in some people. For instance, some people experience a rise in their BP immediately after consuming a salty meal.
  • Fever. Blood pressure changes in response to an increase in body temperature caused by infection. Children suffering from diarrhea or repeated bouts of vomiting often experience a drop in blood pressure.
  • Other factors. Blood lose due to physical traumas, and heavy menstruation may also reduce blood pressure in certain situations.

Why Does Blood Pressure Spike?

Small spikes in blood pressure between anywhere around 140-150 mmHg are generally nothing to be too concerned about, since they may simply be due to movement after periods of inactivity. It is the subsequent rising of blood pressure to the critical values of 180-200 mmHg that requires attention.

Sharp increases in blood pressure may be due to various reasons. Increased sodium chloride intake, low potassium intake, depression, anxiety, and a lack of sound sleep, all effect blood pressure. Additionally, over-the-counter pills (like steroids, NSAIDs), alcohol consumption, drug interactions, rapid weight gain and stress may directly affect the activity of heart.

The increase in blood pressure may also be secondary to some other disease, for instance, pheochromocytoma (tumor on the adrenal gland) , chronic kidney disease, sleep apnea, coarctation of theaorta (a narrowing of the blood vessel that leads from the heart) and preeclampsia in pregnancy. Variation in the activity of thyroid gland is also a contributing factor.

Other causes of a spike in blood pressure may be vague and dependent on the person concerned. For one person a troublesome phone call may cause their BP shoot up . For another, the mere presence of a doctor or the sight of a needle may be the triggering event. Someone else may find themself gasping for breath in the middle of night after watching a horror movie or having a nightmare.

Like with other things, prevention is better than cure. Measures that can be taken to reduce the chances of hypertension happening include,

  • Keeping your diet in check. A low sodium and high potassium diet are
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Taking things lightly to reduce stress.
  • Sleeping properly and for reasonable hours.

If you are trying to overcoming a problem of drug interaction and medication-induced hypertension, you should enlist the help of your physician.

Why Does Blood Pressure Drop?

Although the majority of blood pressure abnormailities involve high blood pressure, a noticeable number of people suffer from low blood pressure. This is known as hypotension.

Hypotension is generally characterized by the systolic pressure of 90 mmHg and diastolic pressure of 60 mmHg or below. The sufferer experiences feelings of dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fainting. They may also go into hypovolemic shock.

Hypotension is the exact opposite of hypertension, but is not considered a pathological condition.

A drop in blood pressure has many causes. These include an acute loss of blood due to physical trauma or hemorrhages, excessive bleeding during menstruation and chronic blood disorders like hemophilia and disseminated intravascular coagulation.

Other reasons for a drop in blood pressure include,

  • Fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhea. This diminishes the number of electrolytes in the blood. These are substances found in the body which, amongst other things, help to regulate blood pressure. Sufferers can experience a fall in blood pressure until their electrolyte levels are restored.
  • The use of drugs. Medicines such as diuretics decrease the volume of blood, and hence, pressure. The relaxation effects of drugs like nitrates and calcium channel blockers decrease vascular resistance, thereby, causing a drop in blood pressure.
  • Orthostatic hypotension. This is a syndrome which presents with a decrease in blood pressure when the person changes posture. A head rush is an example of this. It is usually a side effect of certain drugs. Alpha-1 blockers are most likely to bring this about.
  • A low sodium diet. Skipping meals and a lack of sleep are activities which lead to a drop in blood pressure.

To prevent hypotension, a person should maintain a proper diet, take sufficient sleep and not skip meals. They should also ensure an adequate intake of water since this maintains the osmotic pressure of blood.

In cases of diarrhea and vomiting, prompt rehydration should be achieved.

Why Is Blood Pressure Low?

There are a number of reasons why someones blood pressure may be low, but in many cases this is nothing to worry about.

People with a small body mass index (BMI) and low body weights are sometimes found to have chronic hypotension, but this is absolutely normal. Likewise, for many elderly people it is quite normal to have a low blood pressure reading.

In some tropical countries, the weather is so hot that people sweat profusely during summers. The loss of water and electrolytes through sweating means that the blood pressure of the indigenous people is physiologically low.

For pregnant women low blood pressure is to be expected in the first and second trimesters. This is because the body is producing a hormone known as progesterone which helps to relax the walls of the blood vessels. While this needs to be monitored to ensure there is no underlying medical problem, blood pressure should start to increase again durin the third trimester and be back to normal levels a few weeks prior to the birth of the baby.

A low blood pressure is usually 90/60 mmHg or below and while in many cases it occurs naturally, at other times it can be the result of a serious medical condition.

Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), low blood glucose, and diabetes are some underlying causes of sustained hypotension. Likewise, congestive heart failure results in decreased cardiac output and eventually hypotension. And although the mechanism of it is not fully understood, it has been noticed that people with liver cirrhosis and failure have lower blood pressure than people who do not have this disease.

Low blood pressure can also be a consequence of medication which may be being taken for other conditions. Some drugs, like nitroprusside, increase the diameters of blood vessels which greatly reduce blood pressure.

Fortunately, in many cases hypotension and its complications are largely avoidable or reversible. A balanced diet and sensible water consumption should prevent dehydration and lightheadedness. During extreme hot wheather, people should either stay at home or go out wearing light but full sleeved clothes to prevent excessive sweating. They should also remember to take a drink with them.

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