Sudden Spike in Blood Pressure: 9 Causes

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Causes of Sudden High Blood Pressure 100% 12
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Is your usually normal blood pressure (BP) spiking and you don’t know why? What could be the cause of sudden high blood pressure? We are here to answer all your questions! A sudden spike in blood pressure could be more severe as compared to existing hypertension. Keep scrolling and reading to learn more about the top 9 causes of sudden high blood pressure.
Contents:
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    What are the Factors Affecting Blood Pressure Spikes?
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    What are the Symptoms of Sudden High BP?
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    What is Labile Hypertension?
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    What is the White Coat Effect?
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    How is Sudden High Blood Pressure Treated?
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    Is Sudden High Blood Pressure Dangerous? What are Its Complications?
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    When is High BP an Emergency?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    FAQs
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What are the Factors Affecting Blood Pressure Spikes?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of the body). With each heartbeat, your heart pumps blood into your arteries. What can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure? Your blood pressure may naturally fluctuate throughout the day. However, certain factors can lead to sudden spikes in blood pressure. These factors include excessive salt and caffeine intake, stress, smoking, underlying chronic conditions, and more. Let’s have a look at these factors. 

High sodium intake

As per the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ (CDC), high sodium intake is related to high blood pressure. Consuming sodium-rich (high salt) food can cause your blood vessels to stiffen and narrow, which leads to a decrease of blood and oxygen flow to the key organs. Due to this, the heart needs to pump harder for better blood flow, causing a sudden spike in blood pressure.

Caffeine

Even if you have normal blood pressure, caffeine consumption can cause  temporary high blood pressure. The spike in blood pressure levels is often sudden and lasts up to 3 or 4 hours after consumption. Caffeine has a vasoconstrictor effect. Vasoconstriction is when your blood vessels tighten and become narrow. This increases the resistance to blood flow and raises your blood pressure.

Stress, anxiety or heightened emotions

Stress and anxiety can be unavoidable causes of temporary blood pressure spikes. Your body releases a hormone called cortisol (the primary stress hormone) when you are under stress. This hormone may cause a sudden increase in your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. 

Medication 

If you have a known high blood pressure condition, you should be cautious while taking certain medications such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and decongestants (drugs to relieve stuffy nose, sinus pain, and inflammation). NSAIDs may make the body retain fluid and decrease the function of kidneys, thus raising your blood pressure levels. Decongestants relieve nasal stuffiness by narrowing the blood vessels in the nose. However, this can affect other blood vessels as well, causing a hike in blood pressure.

Smoking

Smoking may increase the risk of buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) inside the arteries, which can further narrow the opening of these arteries, allowing less blood to flow and leading to high blood pressure. One cigarette can cause a rise of about 5 to 10 mm Hg in your regular blood pressure. It might be a temporary effect but can deteriorate your heart health by causing damage to your arteries.

Drugs

Consumption of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine causes a sharp rise in blood pressure because they urge the body to release hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which in high amounts can increase your blood pressure. This may lead to an irregular heart rate, and even a heart attack.

Excessive alcohol consumption

Regular consumption of alcohol can increase your blood pressure at a rapid rate. Alcohol influences blood pressure in various ways. It affects the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) that is involved in blood pressure regulation. It also reduces production of the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin and leads to dehydration. Alcohol also increases cortisol levels and decreases the sensitivity of baroreceptors (types of receptors present in the body that help regulate blood pressure). Through a combination of these mechanisms, alcohol consumption may cause a sudden rise in BP levels. 

Pain or injury

Injuries or sudden pain can cause a spike in your blood pressure. This happens because the pain causes your nervous system to ramp up and initiate a ‘fight or flight’ response. This response includes the release of adrenaline hormone, which causes a temporary spike in blood pressure as your heart beats faster and blood vessels begin to narrow.

Underlying health issues

Some medical conditions such as collagen vascular disorder (due to inflammation), chronic kidney disease (due to the narrowing of arteries delivering blood to the kidneys), and thyroid issues (reduce the heart’s pumping capacity and narrow the blood vessels) can cause a sudden rise in blood pressure.

What are the Symptoms of Sudden High BP?

A sudden instance of high blood pressure does not always come with symptoms. However, symptoms may include:

  • Intermittent headaches
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

What is Labile Hypertension?

Blood pressure usually increases and decreases throughout the day, but if there are sudden changes in your blood pressure within minutes, and this happens frequently, the condition is referred to as labile hypertension.

Labile hypertension can indicate an underlying condition that you are unaware of. It comes with the usual symptoms of hypertension such as face flushing, sweating, uneasiness, and headaches. 

Labile hypertension is generally caused due to a sudden traumatic life event, such as a car accident, a heated argument with someone, financial issues, or intense physical activities. 

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What is the White Coat Effect?

White Coat Effect or White Coat Syndrome occurs when you worry about a doctor’s appointment or you are seated at a clinic waiting for your turn to visit the doctor and this causes a temporary spike in your blood pressure.

It gets its name from the white coats that doctors and medical staff wear in a professional setting. The white coat effect is worth monitoring but it may not always be a sign of a bigger health issue.

How is Sudden High Blood Pressure Treated?

Sudden high blood pressure can effectively be treated at your nearest clinic or hospital under the supervision of a medical professional. You should seek immediate medical help to reduce blood pressure instantly. However, some steps can be taken while you wait for medical attention. These steps include:

  • The first step should be to lie down straight and try to remain calm. It may be difficult if you are stressed but slow and deep breaths can help lower your blood pressure.
  • If you are a known patient of hypertension, you should take the medication that has been prescribed by your doctor.
  • Hibiscus and chamomile tea can help calm you down. Caffeine and tea should be avoided in this situation.
  • Dark chocolate helps your brain release endorphins, which are “feel good” hormones that calm you down and may bring down your BP.

Is Sudden High Blood Pressure Dangerous? What are Its Complications?

A sudden spike in blood pressure can be dangerous as it can lead to complications that include:

  • Heart and vascular (affecting the blood vessels) diseases
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney problems
  • Vision problems
  • Sexual dysfunction

When is High BP an Emergency?

High BP becomes an emergency, called a hypertensive crisis, when your blood pressure readings exceed 180/120 mm Hg. In such cases, it should be measured by an attendant frequently to check if the blood pressure lowers at a point. If, after 5 minutes, it does not come down, you require immediate medical attention.

These signs and symptoms also suggest that you require emergency care:

  • Chest pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Facial flushing
  • Blood spots in the eye
  • Difficulty speaking

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flowing blood on the walls of your arteries. With each heartbeat, your heart pumps blood into your arteries.
  • Sudden high blood pressure can be caused by factors including excessive sodium consumption, increased caffeine intake, stress, medicines like NSAIDs and decongestants, smoking, drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine, excessive alcohol consumption, pain or injury, and underlying health issues.
  • Sudden high blood pressure may be accompanied by symptoms such as intermittent headaches, heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Blood pressure usually increases and decreases throughout the day, but if there are sudden changes in your blood pressure within minutes and this happens frequently, the condition is referred to as labile hypertension.
  • White Coat Effect occurs when you worry about a doctor’s appointment or you are seated at a clinic waiting for your turn to visit the doctor and this causes a temporary spike in your blood pressure.
  • Sudden high blood pressure can effectively be treated at your nearest clinic or hospital under the supervision of a medical professional. Seek immediate medical help to reduce blood pressure instantly.
  • A sudden spike in blood pressure can be dangerous as can lead to complications such as heart and vascular diseases, stroke, heart attack, kidney disorders, vision problems, and sexual dysfunction.
  • High BP becomes an emergency when your blood pressure readings exceed 180/120 mm Hg. In such cases, it should be measured frequently and if it does not come down after 5 minutes, seek immediate medical help.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.

Frequently Asked Questions

High blood pressure is usually asymptomatic unless your blood pressure levels rise too high. Some of the symptoms that you may experience with high blood pressure include headache, heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

There seems to be no evidence to show that occasional instances of gas formation cause high blood pressure.

There seems to be no evidence to show that staying hungry, fasting, or starving can cause high blood pressure.

Blood pressure changes naturally several times throughout the day. This is normal and predictable. However, a sudden spike in blood pressure is usually due to an underlying reason, such as stress, medication, or substance abuse.

Yes, high BP can be a temporary condition for those who do not have a history of hypertension. In such cases, an increase in BP could be a singular incident and may not lead to any health issues. 

Studies suggest that drinking water can help lower your blood pressure as it contains minerals such as magnesium and calcium, which are known to reduce blood pressure.

Although COVID-19 symptoms present differently in different people, sudden high blood pressure does not appear to be a commonly reported symptom of COVID-19.

Sudden stress and anxiety can cause a spike in blood pressure. Stress makes the heart beat faster and constricts the blood vessels to send more blood to the core of the body rather than to the whole body, leading to high BP.

High blood pressure levels can cause a heart attack if left undetected or untreated for long. This can happen because elevated and uncontrolled blood pressure levels can narrow and damage the arteries, which have trouble supplying blood to the heart. Too little blood flow to the heart can lead to chest pain (angina), irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or a heart attack.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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