Causes of Big Swings in Blood Pressure

By Jacquelyn Jeanty

  • Overview

    Causes of Big Swings in Blood Pressure
    Information gathered by the American Heart Association shows that one out of every three adults in the United States has high blood pressure. It is still unknown as to what causes the condition, but certain lifestyle choices are shown to contribute to its occurrence. In most cases, big swings in blood pressure can be controlled when a person's overall condition is taken into account.
  • Identification

    Blood pressure is a key indicator of the overall health and condition of the heart and body. A normal reading of 120/80 indicates the heart isn't working too hard, and the arteries and blood vessels leading to and from the heart are in good condition. The top number on the reading measures how much pressure your arteries undergo as the blood moves through them. This is called the systolic pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure which measures the ongoing pressure within your arteries at all times. Big swings in a reading can be caused by a number of factors, some of which are lifestyle patterns, while others may be more related to activities taking place within your immediate environment.
  • Function

    A person's heart and pulse rates are both affected by how much pressure is moving through the heart and arteries. Blood moves through the arteries in waves, or surges, as opposed to moving in a constant flow. Each heartbeat represents a surge, which is what accounts for why the pulse rate moves in beats. A normal pulse rate runs somewhere between 60 to 80 beats a minute. The number of beats per minute gives a measurement of how much pressure is exerted on your arteries in between heartbeats. Arteries that are clogged with plaque, or are inflexible make the heart work harder to move blood throughout the body. The harder it works, the higher your blood pressure goes.

  • Features

    Changes in blood pressure readings are normal throughout any given day. Changes in body position, in mental and emotional states, and in activity level all cause changes in the pressure required to move blood through the body. Readings are at their lowest when the body is asleep. The highest readings typically occur during the early morning hours. Other factors which cause a swing in blood pressure are caffeine, nicotine, and exercise. Readings go up when smoking a cigarette, or drinking coffee because the effects of these substances causes blood vessels to constrict. Smaller blood vessels means the heart has to work harder to push the blood through.
  • Types

    Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition that occurs as a result of constant pressure being applied to the arteries. The cause is associated with lifestyle habits, or underlying physical problems. Hypertension can come in two main forms -primary hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension happens in cases of obesity, electrolyte imbalances, excess salt in the diet, excess alcohol intake, or cigarette smoking. Ninety percent of people who have hypertension have the primary form. Secondary hypertension happens as a result of an underlying physical condition, or from taking certain medications. Cold medicines, birth control pills, pain relievers, and some prescription drugs can give rise to secondary hypertension. Congenital heart defects, adrenal gland tumors, or kidney abnormalities can also give rise to secondary hypertension.
  • Prevention/Solution

    Most factors that contribute to big swings in blood pressure are controllable, however age is a factor that can't be changed. As the body gets older, arteries begin to shrink, and become less pliable, or stiff. The stiffer they get the more pressure is needed to move blood through them. Cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine intake will help promote a more regulated blood flow through the arteries. Maintaining a low sodium diet is important, as salt tends to shrink arterial walls over time. Managing your stress levels throughout the day also goes a long way towards maintaining a healthy heart rate and blood flow.
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