For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – As part of Blood Pressure Education Month, Aspirus Health provided information on blood pressure fluctuations.

“People on blood pressure medication often record readings with a home monitor, and in most cases, the results show frequent fluctuations, but few surprises,” Aspirus stated. “When blood pressure is higher than usual, it is usually because salty foods have been eaten. When it goes too low, it could be because of not drinking enough water to make up for fluids lost because of diuretic medication.”

Clay. Photo courtesy of Aspirus.

“If there are some wider than normal fluctuations with no ready explanation, which can be a cause for concern, your primary care clinician or specialist can order some heart tests to provide valuable insight into the situation,” said Tracy Clay, NP, a family nurse practitioner at Aspirus Woodruff Clinic-Maple Street on the campus of Howard Young Medical Center.

Aspirus explained that blood pressure represents the force that blood exerts against the walls of blood vessels as it is pumped by the heart muscle.

“Your blood pressure should be 120/80 mm/Hg or lower,” Aspirus stated. “Hypertension is defined as any reading of 140/90 or higher.”

“It’s normal, of course, for a person’s blood pressure to rise and fall from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep,” Clay noted. “As a result, health care professionals consider an average reading more important than that at any one time.”

Aspirus said there are many reasons for a short-term increase in blood pressure, which include the following:


People who are salt sensitive will retain fluid after eating a very salty meal, resulting in a short-term weight gain and a rise in blood pressure, Aspirus said, adding that individuals with hypertension are advised to restrict their sodium intake, and many are prescribed diuretic medications to help establish fluid balance.


If you are stressed, emotionally or physically, your breathing gets quicker and deeper, your heart beats faster and your arteries constrict, making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body,” Aspirus stated. “The result is higher blood pressure. Everyone experiences occasional stress, but if you feel you are constantly battling stress, you might benefit from relaxation or stress reduction therapy.”


Aspirus said caffeine is a stimulant, designed to “get your system revved up.”

“One cup will not affect your blood pressure; three or four cups might,” Aspirus stated. “If you have a home blood pressure monitor, take a reading before and after drinking coffee or tea, and see what happens. If you see a significant increase, then maybe you should cut back on your caffeine.”


Some medications and supplements can increase blood pressure or interfere with blood pressure medications.

“NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can cause you to retain fluids and, as a result, contribute to high blood pressure, Aspirus said. “Decongestants and acetaminophen can also have a negative effect.”

Calcium/cholesterol deposits

Aspirus said calcium/cholesterol deposits are the most common reason for hypertension.

“When arteries are narrowed or clogged, the heart must pump harder to get good circulation,” Aspirus stated. “High blood pressure and high cholesterol often go together.”

“All of these can cause blood pressure to go up; dehydration can cause it to go down,” Clay said. “What’s important is how high the blood pressure goes and how long it stays there, and if the wide fluctuations continue, talk to your primary care clinician right away.”

In the United States, one out of every three deaths is caused by cardiovascular disease, Aspirus said, noting that most who die suddenly from cardiovascular-related disease have no previous symptoms.

“Because of this, it is important to be aware of your heart health risks,” Aspirus stated.

To learn more about your heart’s biological age and to discover tips on risk factor reduction, visit

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