The most frustrating thing ever is when your blood pressure spikes to dangerous levels, and both you and your doctors are flabbergasted as to what is causing it.
This happened to me a few months ago.
I had a massive blood pressure spikes, along with horrible panic attacks, chest pains, arm and head tingling and numbness, and the worst headache ever.
After what feels like a million tests, you know what we found out?
Everything was normal.
But I somehow had to get on 7 different medications to control it. All of which made me experience 50 more symptoms.
So frustrating. I don’t even have salt in my house and don’t eat processed, sodium rich foods. So what the heck is going on with me?!
So I went digging and found 13 unique reasons blood pressure spikes that I wasn’t told before. I was going to figure this out.
1. Meat and Poultry Can Cause High Blood Pressure
You hear so much about sodium being the cause of high blood pressure, but what if that isn’t the only cause?
Nevermind that chicken is injected with sodium water to make the weight, and price, go up and retain freshness.
But there are numerous studies that show meat consumption is related to higher blood pressure!
I can actually attest to this. When I stopped eating meat and poultry, my blood pressure started dropping. I hadn’t started exercising yet or anything.
2. Foods with Tyramine Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
Unfortunately, if you have a sensitivity to tyramine, take MAOI inhibiters, or certain blood pressure medications like beta blockers, large amounts of tyramine can temporarily spike your blood pressure to an insane level (it will usually go back down in a couple of hours I found).
Tyramine is a chemical that can trigger the release of norepinephrine, which is a hormone that increases blood pressure and heart rate. So eating a lot of foods with tyramine, may be why you see random spikes.
Feeling your blood pressure go up, feel a rush of anxiety out of nowhere, and getting a something that feels like a migraine as well? That is a sure sign of excess tyramine.
So what has tyramine? Foods with nutritional yeast, cheeses, cured meat (like pepperoni and hot dogs), citrus fruits, super ripe (brownish) bananas and avocados, pickled vegetables, and alcohol.
So basically everything I used to consume a lot of.
3. Exercise can (Temporarily) Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
You always hear of exercise being able to lower blood pressure, and it is true….long term.
However, when exercising, most people experience an increase in blood pressure for about an hour or two after exercising.
Something else I found out is if you overdo it, or start exercising when your body isn’t used to it, you might experience an increase in blood pressure for up to a day and a half after you get done exercising!
So when you start an exercise program, never jump into it. Do it gradually. Go slow.
As some of you who have read my other articles know, I started out walking for 30 seconds at a time!
Don’t be afraid of starting off small. I can jog now for 45 minutes. So you WILL get there.
Related Article: How to Workout When You Have Chronic Pain
4. Your Blood Pressure Medicine Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
This is actually a thing. If you aren’t taking the right blood pressure medicine, or the right dosage, it will cause your blood pressure to go up!
Go to drugs.com and read some of the reviews on the different blood pressure medications. This is a common thing, and also something I experienced myself.
If you aren’t getting the right dosage, your body will try to regulate, but fail. This is when your blood pressure will go up.
For me, I had a feeling I was being over medicated, so I cut my pill in half, and immediately had better blood pressure results.
(Disclaimer: Use this information at your own risk and please make sure you are under doctor supervision to make sure doing this is right for you)
5. Adrenal Tumors/ Hormones Can Cause Rise in Blood Pressure
This one is extremely rare, but is known as pheochromocytoma. This is a tumor on the adrenal gland.
This causes a release in hormones that will make your blood pressure spike, symptoms of a panic attack out of nowhere, and horrible headaches.
This is what my doctor and I thought I had because I was experiencing these symptoms in full force for no reason. However, after testing, we found out, luckily, that this was not the cause of my symptoms.
So if you have these symptoms, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. But please be aware that certain medication and foods with tyramine can affect hormones and cause symptoms that mimic this one.
So definitely don’t freak out and think you have a tumor if you have these symptoms. Rule out the other stuff first!
6. Anxiety Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
You know what stinks? Some blood pressure medications can cause anxiety.
You know what anxiety can cause?
High blood pressure.
Is that a vicious circle or what?
If you have constant anxiety, or have been under stress recently, you may find your blood pressure numbers are pretty bad.
A couple of months ago, I was under stress, then after my blood pressure readings were getting dangerous results, I developed anxiety about it and would feel small panic attacks every time I went to check my blood pressure.
Talk about counterproductive…
But I did the breathing exercises I talked about in How to Lower Blood Pressure Immediately, and would take my blood pressure immediately after. My blood pressure will go down significantly in just a couple of minutes time just from that.
So now, I do the breathing exercises every time I take my blood pressure.
I actually found these breathing straws help me a lot in being able to do the deep, slow breathing when I am super anxious.
Related Article: 5 Ways to Overcome Anxiety
7. Dairy Can Cause High Blood Pressure
I know a lot of you will not like this, but your milk and cheese habit could be causing your blood pressure to spike.
My dad and I have gotten into many disagreements about this because he has had the highest blood pressure I have ever seen on a functioning adult, but drinks close to a gallon per day of milk. He refuses to acknowledge it could be making it worse.
Milk is inflammatory. Chronic inflammation spikes blood pressure.
Yes, there is a conflict about this. But here is the thing, most of the studies that showed dairy isn’t inflammatory, they were paid for by the dairy industry. It is very easy to manipulate a study. Here is a video if you want to learn more on how the dairy industry designs misleading studies.
So I prefer to look at the studies where it is paid for by a third party and the controls are a little more common sense. I also prefer to use my own experience and test it on myself. Which is what I did.
After my first major blood pressure spike a few months back, I went completely plant based. My blood pressure began to regulate and head more and more towards normal each day I was on it.
About 3 weeks later, I had a little bit of dairy to see if I could add it back in. 2 hours later, I was in the emergency room because my blood pressure spiked so bad, I thought I was dying.
Is it the dairy that caused it?
There is no proof, but that is the only thing I did different that day. And my blood pressure was back to normal before that!
So while these experts keep fighting back and forth, I’m not risking it.
I have been dairy free for a while and don’t even miss it like I thought I would.
Related Article: Does the Alkaline Diet Help with Weight Loss?
8. Carb Imbalance Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
I am one of those people who do a facepalm when I hear people say carbs are bad.
Carbs are not bad. Our bodies and brains NEEDS carbs.
However, the type of carbs most people eat ARE the bad kind. They are the kind that raises blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
The standard American diet consists of foods mostly found in the frozen or middle sections of the grocery store. Which pretty much contains just refined sugar and carbs.
Look at your labels. How many carbs and sugars are in everything you eat? What’s the fiber content?
I’m betting the fiber content is near zero on everything. And that is where the problem lies.
Sugar and refined carbs overwhelm your liver and pancreas, causing them not to work properly and releasing too much insulin in the body. They also destroy your gut bacteria, which is responsible for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and immune system. If your gut bacteria is destroyed, your cardiovascular system and immune system start functioning improperly.
Fiber in foods not only feeds good gut bacteria to protect these systems, but also acts as a binder to sugar and carbs you eat, so it absorbs in your system at a much slower pace. And the fiber will keep some of it from absorbing at all and just carry it out of your body!
The good bacteria in the gut is able to fight off the sugar and all your organs are able to keep up with the pace of absorption. This means nothing in your body is panicking.
So what are “Good Carbs”?
A good rule of thumb is to use the following equation:
Total Carbs / Fiber = Total should aim to be around 5 or less.
If it is more, it is not a good source of carbs and I would recommend to put it back.
Related Article: Is Lack of Fiber Causing Your Health Problems?
9. White Coat Syndrome Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
I won’t go much into it, because it is pretty straight to the point. Does your blood pressure only seem to spike at the doctor’s office?
There are a lot of people who experience this.
It doesn’t mean you have a blood pressure problem. It means you have an underlying anxiety of doctor’s offices.
10. Being too Cold Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
This one threw me for a loop. Who knew being consistently too cold can cause your blood pressure to go up?
This is because being cold causes your blood vessels to narrow. Which in turn, means your blood needs to up the pressure to get through them.
This can happen with sudden changes in weather as well.
We all knew arthritis could flare when this happens, but our blood pressure too?
So if you think your spike in blood pressure might be from you being cold, turn up your thermostat and see if you feel it go down over the next few hours.
11. Sleep Apnea Can Cause High Blood Pressure
When our sleep is disrupted, it causes all kinds of weird things to happen to our bodies.
It is one of the most common causes to high blood pressure.
Sleep Apnea causes sudden drops in oxygen levels, that puts a strain on your cardiovascular system. Which in turn, can raise blood pressure.
If you and your doctor cannot figure out the cause of your high blood pressure and you are already eating a mostly plant based diet, with a lot of fiber, ask about doing a sleep study to check if you have sleep apnea.
Related Article: 9 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster
12. BPA Can Cause Blood Pressure Spikes
Something many of us don’t think about is how our food is packaged, what food storage we use, and how it can contribute to our spikes in blood pressure.
Unfortunately, BPA is found in many of the plastics we store our food in: soda bottles, Tupperware, water bottles, canned foods, pacifiers, hard clear plastic containers, etc.
So it is hard to get away from.
It works by disrupting the body’s endocrine system, which disrupts estrogen production. This leads to not only cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, but also type 2 diabetes, immune disorders, cancer, and other illnesses.
The best practice to reduce BPA in your life is to make sure the item is BPA free, sticking to glass/stainless steel containers, or just sticking to whole foods.
13. You Are in Physical Pain
As a fellow chronic pain sufferer, I understand your dilemma.
Everything hurts, all the time, and we have to worry about it affecting our cardiovascular system now by having blood pressure spikes?
At the risk of being too science-y and technical, I am going to make it simple: When there is pain, a bunch of different neurological and hormonal systems create a chain reaction, causing an increase in heart rate.
In turn, this causes a spike in blood pressure. And your resting blood pressure will continue to remain high.
What I do, is see a chiropractor and massage therapist when my pain becomes unbearable. This helps my blood pressure go down because it gets the pain to a more tolerable level.
Related Article: How to Lose Weight When You Have Chronic Pain
Bonus: Vitamins and Minerals
Something I want to touch on is the fact that if we are experiencing blood pressure spikes, it could be due to being deficient or having too much of a particular nutrient!
One that I am confident about so far is Vitamin D. It was found that I am very deficient in Vitamin D, and that could have been the reason for my blood pressure spikes AND anxiety attacks. Because being deficient in that vitamin can cause both of those to occur.
I’m really glad I requested my doctor to add vitamin deficiencies to the blood test orders he was having me do. When I requested that, he told me they usually don’t do that. I asked him to do it anyway.
And I’m glad I did. We all need to be advocates of our health.
It got me curious if other nutrients can play a part in blood pressure too. I know Vitamin D and Potassium do (I discuss potassium and it’s role in blood pressure in 10 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Immediately). But I have found quite a few other vitamins and minerals can have an impact on our blood pressure as well.
I am compiling all the information and plan to post another article in the next few months about which vitamins and minerals can have an impact on our blood pressure.
So definitely come back soon to check that out, or subscribe to my email list (and get a free e-book!) so you don’t miss it.
Take Back Our Health!
Some of these reasons were weird, right? I never knew about most of them. Like really, meat and poultry? Tyramine?
But it’s true.
I took back my health by eliminating all these and within a month, and I feel better than I have since I was a teenager. I’m off all my medications except one again. And I exercise every day.
Changing my habits was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would be on a plant based diet, looking for BPA-Free labels, and turning up my heat, I would have laughed, rolled my eyes at you, and probably called you some very mean names.
But people change when they are hit with something that scares them. And I was scared I was going to die with how high my blood pressure was spiking.
My hope is that through writing my story and what I learned, you can find what is making your blood pressure spike and take back your health.
Did any of these surprise you? Think some of these may apply to you? Let me know in the comments below!