What are the causes of sudden high blood pressure?

Updated November 21, 2016

Sudden changes in high blood pressure may or may not be cause for concern, depending on the cause and how long the change continues. In many instances, temporary rises in blood pressure that do not extend for more than a few hours or days are due to emotional or other reasons in the environment. However, if blood pressure remains high for a period of several weeks, a doctor may recommend substantial lifestyle changes in order to help reduce blood pressure measurements.


According to the Mayo Clinic, one reason for sudden high blood pressure can be the body's response to medications. For example, common over-the-counter medications for cold and flu can cause blood pressure to rise as long as a person is taking it. Over-the-counter medications to help with sleep contain antihistamines, which can also raise blood pressure. Discontinuing these medications can help substantially with reducing high blood pressure. Look for over-the-counter medications that are blood pressure sensitive like Coracidin.


According to the Mayo Clinic, another cause for sudden high blood pressure can be smoking. Smoking constricts blood vessels and capillaries in the body. As a result, blood pressure can increase substantially when a person is smoking. Nicotine, which is contained in cigarettes and other tobacco products, also raises blood pressure and remains in the system for several hours after smoking a cigarette. For individuals who smoke several cigarettes each day, their blood pressure is continually subject to the effects of nicotine.


Another factor in high blood pressure is alcohol consumption, according to the Mayo Clinic. While drinking small amounts of alcohol regularly can provide health benefits, drinking more than one to two drinks daily can preclude any potential benefits. Instead, excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure substantially. Stopping or significantly reducing alcohol consumption can have immediate health benefits by lowering blood pressure.


According to the AGS Foundation for Healthy Living, diet has a substantial impact on high blood pressure. High sodium (salt) and high fat diets not only lead to increased weight, but also high blood pressure. Doctors often recommend that patients with high blood pressure reduce or entirely eliminate sodium from their diets. Often, individuals unconsciously eat high sodium and high fat foods without realising it. Processed and prepackaged foods are often extremely high in sodium and fat, as are fast foods.


James Winshall, M.D. of Brigham and Women's Hospital notes that stress is a key factor for many people who have high blood pressure. When people are stressed, their bodies produce hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, which in turn raise blood pressure. So being chronically stressed will raise blood pressure over the long run. Learning stress management techniques can be an extremely important measure to reduce high blood pressure. Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga are methods that have proven to be very effective in lowering blood pressure without the need for medications.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author