Temporary Blood Pressure Spikes: How to Handle Them

Blood pressure follows a normal daily pattern. It's usually lower at night while you're asleep and when you first wake up than it is during the day.

But episodes of anxiety, for example, a visit to your doctor's office for a checkup, can cause your blood pressure to spike, often called white-coat hypertension. Even eating salty foods and having caffeinated drinks can cause your blood pressure to temporarily rise.

While an occasional increase in blood pressure above your average reading is not usually a cause for alarm, over time, if those spikes in your blood pressure occur frequently enough, say every day, they can cause damage to your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys the same way having chronically high blood pressure can.

Some people with chronic high blood pressure often do not have any symptoms, many people who experience sudden spikes in blood pressure during stressful times may feel their heart race and blood pulse. Here are some steps you can take to lower spikes in blood pressure whether it's caused by foods or anxiety.

1. Relax-Take a few deep breaths and teach yourself to lower your blood pressure. Relaxation promotes the widening, or dilation, of your blood vessels, decreasing your blood pressure.

2. Go for a walk-Taking a leisurely stroll after eating salty foods helps dilate your blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. Maintaining a regular exercise program of at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week, can prevent or control high blood pressure over time.

3. Try yoga and meditation-These practices can help you relax and may even lower your systolic (the first number on a blood pressure reading) blood pressure by 5 mmHg or more.

According to the American Heart Association, the optimal blood pressure for healthy adults is a reading below 120/80 mmHG. A systolic pressure of 120 to 139 mmHG or a diastolic of 80 to 89 mmHG is considered prehypertension and should be monitored by your doctor. A blood pressure reading of 140 over 90 or higher is considered high.

Prevent High Blood Pressure

You can stave off high blood pressure in several ways, including:

  • Eating a healthy diet that includes whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts and reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets and salt (less than 2,400 milligrams per day, about one teaspoon)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol intake-If you drink alcoholic beverages, stick to a moderate amount each day: at most one drink for women and two drinks for men

Mayo Clinic. "High blood pressure (hypertension)." Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D. Web. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-pressure/AN00925

Mayo Clinic. "High blood pressure (hypertension)." Web.

American Heart Association. "Understanding Blood Pressure Readings."