Fluctuating blood pressure

Specialty of Internal medicine

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is what moves blood through the circulatory system and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the arteries, tissues and organs. The heart creates blood pressure by forcing out blood with every heartbeat. This pressure changes throughout the day but most of these changes are normal and predictable. Blood pressure can, however, become too high and it can also get too low, which may be a sign of potential underlying health issues.

What causes fluctuating blood pressure?

The following are possible causes of fluctuating blood pressure:

  • Stress – blood pressure can be increased by stress and anxiety, especially over prolonged periods of time.
  • White coat effect – this describes when blood pressure is higher when it is being measured by a doctor or a nurse (referring to their traditional ‘white coat’) as some patients feel nervous in this setting. Most people feel tense in a medical setting as opposed to familiar ones. High blood pressure readings because of the white coat effect only occur in a medical environment. Patients can take readings of their blood pressure regularly at home to recognise that their readings are only higher when with a health professional.
  • Medications – some of the over the counter medications can change blood pressure. Hypertension pills are designed to lower blood pressure, whilst others taken for allergies can cause it to increase.

Other risk factors for high blood pressure (hypertension) include: smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, too much salt, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, ageing, genetics, chronic kidney disease, adrenal disorders and sleep apnoea.

Risk factors for low blood pressure (hypotension) include: pregnancy, heart problems, endocrine problems, dehydration, blood loss and lack of nutrients in the diet.

How is fluctuating blood pressure treated?

A doctor will examine the patient to determine the underlying cause by asking about their history, lifestyle and if they are on any medications. Regular follow-up visits with a GP can ensure that the blood pressure is within a normal range and that medications are not causing irregularities.

How can I manage my fluctuating blood pressure at home?

There are certain actions that can be taken to regulate blood pressure, which include:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Meditation – with breathing exercises
  • Reducing caffeine intake

Can fluctuating blood pressure be prevented?

Making healthy lifestyle choices and careful use of certain medications can resolve fluctuations in blood pressure. Regular health checks are highly recommended and the treatment of any conditions that affect blood pressure levels.

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