13 Surprising Things That Can Spike Your Blood Pressure

by | Oct 30, 2023 | Health

Our hearts are suffering. It’s estimated that 1 in every 3 SA adults is suffering from hypertension. The reasons? There are plenty. From the usual suspects like unhealthy diets to unexpected culprits like stress and loneliness, there are tons of surprising things you could be doing that are ramping up your blood pressure.

READ MORE: 5 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

Let’s look at a few ways you might be putting your ticker in danger:

1. Loneliness

A five-year study found that those who reported feeling lonely were most likely to have increased blood pressure with some clocking 14 more points on readings than when the study began. While the exact reason for these elevated levels is still unknown, it has been posited that the feelings of stress and depression associated with a life of isolation could contribute to this serious spike.

2. Potassium Deficiency

According to the American Heart Association, you should be aiming to consume around 3,400mg of potassium per day. Why? The more potassium in your system, the more sodium your kidneys will expel through urine, helping flush out excess sodium that might otherwise ramp up your blood pressure. Plus, potassium can also help loosen up tension on your cell walls, giving you another way to combat high levels.

Thankfully, meeting your daily requirements for this element is relatively simple. Fruits such as oranges and apricots, leafy greens, mushrooms, peas and even fat-free yoghurts will supply you with a powerful payload to keep high blood pressure at bay.

3. Dehydration

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When you’re dehydrated, your blood vessels constrict. Ultimately, this will ramp up your blood pressure. As such, it’s important to ensure you’re sipping on enough H2O so you’re never running dry. Shoot for around 4 litres of water per day (and more if you’re notching a gruelling workout).

READ MORE: These 5 Potassium-Rich Foods Can Help Fight High Blood Pressure

4. Nicotine

Yes, this applies to vaping, too. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, nicotine not only ramps up your blood pressure but can also spark the flow of adrenaline which will have your heart pumping at overdrive. Bottom line: your cigs (and electronic alternatives) could be putting you on a one-way road to a heart attack. Need help kicking the habit? We’ve compiled a zero-BS guide to quit your smokes for good.

5. Sleep Apnea

If you’re regular breathing pattern is interrupted with stops and restarts throughout the night, you could have high blood pressure. This sleep disorder, known as sleep apnea, affects upwards of 20% of adults. But spotting the signs can be tough; especially because the damage is being done while you’re off in the Land of Nod.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common signs of this disorder can include:

  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • Waking up during the night gasping or choking
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Reduced libido
  • Issues focusing or concentrating during the day
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat

6. Alcohol

If you’re boozing on the reg, you could be putting serious strain on your heart. According to many studies, having more than three drinks in a single sitting (for many people that’s a typical Friday night) can lead to a temporary dramatic spike. Repeatedly knocking back mixers and session beers day after day? That temporary jump might become a long-term problem.

READ MORE: Live, Laugh, Longer: This Easy Therapy Could Help Your Heart

7. Added Sugar

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There’s sugar in everything these days, so it can be difficult to avoid this added trap. But if you’re diligent about checking the nutritional facts, you could sidestep some severe health issues down the line. According to one study sugar consumption might have a more significant impact on your blood pressure than salt. Further research found that gorging on a high-sugar diet for just two weeks (think: the days leading up to a big deadline) could have an immediate and measurable effect on your levels.

8. Sitting

There’s a reason those standing desks are so popular: they can be an antidote to one of the biggest risk factors for your heart. Sitting for long periods has been linked to high blood pressure in addition to a number of other health problems. Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for this daily problem. Your move? Get moving. Taking short breaks every 30 minutes to get your blood flowing with a short walk or stretching session can help regulate your levels.  

9. Fried Food

Fatty fried foods deliver a payload of everything that’s bad for your heart. Namely, salt and trans fats. Both of these deep-fried staples can significantly spike your blood pressure, so it’s best to avoid them at all times. While some days call for takeaways, you always have the option of scrolling past your favourite chips spot for something that’s less of a heart hazard.

10. Noise Pollution…

A recent study published in the journal JACC: Advances found that the din of a busy road could ramp up your risks of having high blood pressure. Coupled with the findings of past research, which drew a link between the loud hustle and bustle of the city and hypertension, it’s clear that excessive noise can hurt your long-term health.

READ MORE: NEW STUDY: Poor Mental Health Linked With Heart Attack Symptoms

11. …And Air Pollution

It’s not just the noise but the fumes, too. According to one study, prolonged exposure to pollution can ramp up your blood pressure.

12. Stress

A bit of stress now and then? Not a problem. While your blood pressure will rise in the moment, it usually settles down once you’ve tackled that anxiety-inducing task. However, when that stress turns from a few hours into weeks or even months, you could be heading towards a health disaster.

Stress leads to a mini “fight or flight” response, causing your heart to beat faster and constricting your blood vessels to make sure blood is reaching your muscles at record speed. This combination adds up to a temporary increase in blood pressure. But, as we all know, the world is filled with stressors. Often, it feels like we jump from one stressful task to the next putting the smackdown on our hearts.

Thankfully, there are ways to bring your stress levels down. Meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, and avoiding unhealthy foods can also take the sting out of stressful periods. The American Heart Association also recommends setting aside some time each day to relax and, in those particular brutal moments, looking for aspects of a stressful task you enjoy so that it’s not all doom and gloom.

13. Lack of Exercise

Skipping your weekly reps can put your heart in serious danger. Countless studies have now found that staying physically active is one of the best ways to pare down your blood pressure, with research showing higher rates of hypertension in those logging the least amount of exercise per day. Bonus: physical exercise can also reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and mitigate a slew of other health issues.

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