Causes of Sudden Increase in Blood Pressure

Fear of the doctor can cause a spike in blood pressure.
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Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your blood exerts on your arteries as it flows through, per the Cleveland Clinic.


A variety of things can cause a sudden rise in your blood pressure — and when blood pressure is repeatedly increased, you also increase your risk of developing chronic hypertension, which can lead to hardening of the arteries, heart disease and stroke.

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Here, learn the most common causes of a high blood pressure reading.

1. Stress and Anxiety

If you have intense, sudden episodes of stress or anxiety, you may get a sudden rise in your blood pressure. In fact, 1 in 5 people get a spike in blood pressure (and a high blood pressure reading) when at the doctor or in the emergency room — a condition called white coat syndrome, per Harvard Health Publishing.

This is because stress raises blood pressure by causing a release of hormones that constrict the blood vessels, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Physical pain is another stressor that can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure, per the NIH.

2. Drugs

Several medications can cause an increase in blood pressure. Some of these, such as birth control pills, are taken on a regular basis and can lead to chronically high hypertension. But certain over-the-counter medications that are used only occasionally can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure, per the Mayo Clinic.


For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), can raise your blood pressure. The Merck Manual Online Medical Library also lists other drugs, such as cocaine, which can raise blood pressure suddenly.

If you're in doubt, ask your doctor whether any drugs you're taking might affect your blood pressure.


3. Salt Consumption

Eating salty foods or drinks can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure because sodium causes the body to retain more fluid, per Houston Methodist.

This can happen within 30 minutes of eating excess salt, like from a heavy meal, for instance. But the good news is, the benefits of cutting back on salt are seen rather quickly. Your blood pressure could go down within hours to days when you eat less salt, per the American Heart Association.


4. Smoking

When you smoke, you inhale nicotine, which has an immediate effect on your blood pressure.

Nicotine causes changes in the proper functioning of blood vessels and produces inflammation within the circulatory system, which contributes to hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even fewer than five cigarettes per day can contribute to these negative effects on your blood vessels, heart and blood pressure levels, per the CDC.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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