Are blood pressure fluctuations within minutes normal? Is it possible that the old monitor you have is going bad or should you worry that something is wrong with your heart?
Both concerns are valid, because just as blood pressure monitors and their batteries go bad, so do hearts after a long period of erratic blood pressure. You can eliminate one worry right away. Get yourself a reliable monitor that can track your history and give you meaningful insight.
Even better, if you are not sure how your BP behaves during various situations or at night, get yourself a special unit that tests your BP continuously for 24 hours. By testing your BP at night can detect a hidden risk for stroke and alert your doctor. If you are daring and love new technology you may be thrilled to try a portable ECG/EKG Heart Health Tracker. This unit does not check BP. It is solely designed to detect the electrical signals of the heart through a finger sensor.
Is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate minute to minute?
If you are like most people, getting distraught by the discovery of blood pressure fluctuations within minutes, stop panicking. Even the healthiest individuals can never see two identical blood pressure numbers taken less than a minute apart.
That’s because blood pressure always fluctuates. It fluctuates in healthy, as well as in unhealthy individuals. Ups and downs, spikes and dips are normal for every one of us. The only question you should have is whether these spikes and dips stay within the normal range for the circumstances.
When are blood pressure fluctuates within minutes desirable?
Contrary to the popular belief, blood pressure fluctuations have very little to do with the heart health, but rather with biochemical and mechanical processes that guard the blood flow. There are several feedback sensors located in the kidneys, the adrenals, arteries, as well as the brain that work continuously to ensure that blood pressure is matching the body needs. These sensors are responsible for regulating blood flow by either managing the heart rate or by changing blood vessel tone. Either way, there will be changes to BP.
The effort to regulate BP perfectly minute to minute is of great importance to the body. It takes less than 5 minutes for brain cells to die if they are deprived of oxygen. Thus, if you detect blood pressure fluctuations within minutes, unless your sensors malfunctioned, it’s likely that your need for oxygen changed.
Let me give you an example. Have you seen people running, playing tennis or wresting? They were all huffing and puffing. But their gasping for air wasn’t due to a suddenly developed breathing disorder. It was due to the body sensors demanding more oxygen.1
- Get an activity tracker to see what’s your heart doing
- or that one that even measures oxygen
- Or a small oxygen sensor
Why does blood pressure spike during exertion?
If you had a magic wand that measures BP in cyclists, skiers, dancers or other athletes you will soon notice that they all have spiked blood pressure during exertion. The reason why they aren’t worrying about hypertension, is because they don’t check BP while performing their feats.
Spikes (even huge ones) in blood pressure are common during exercise. Physical exertion requires oxygen and that means the body will either increase breathing rate, spike blood pressure, or do both.[i]
- When fluctuating BP is NOT normal
- Get a quality BP monitor
- This monitor can track your BP during exercise
Gym is the place where BP frequently gets “out of control”. Weight lifters may go into a temporary hypertension while increasing their systolic number by 100 mmHg or more. But such gym-induced blood pressure spike has nothing to do with risk for hypertension. It is how the body delivers oxygen.
There are however, types of fluctuating blood pressure you should be concerned about. If you don’t care about the details, here is the simplified rule: during physical exertion, only the top (systolic) number is allowed to go up. The bottom number must not. Any increase in the bottom (diastolic) number that is greater than 10 mmHg indicates increased hypertension risk.
Expect blood pressure fluctuations within minutes of stress
While it is obvious why physical exertion may lead to spiked blood pressure, it may not be obvious why a mere expectation of it can do the same. Here is where stress perception comes in.
In nature emotional stress precedes physical effort. Imagine a mouse that suddenly sees a cat, or dog that sees another dog invading its backyard. The perception of danger is sufficient to get their “blood boiling”.
Since fight or flight can happen within a few seconds or minutes, the body doesn’t have much time to get ready. Oxygen must be increasesd immediately, so the defense mechanism (the muscles) wouldn’t fail. In nature, the animal that wins has the swiftest physiology.
Humans are not any different. Our cardiovascular responses to stress are tightly locked in the fight and flight feedback loop. It does not matter whether we are faced with tense work environment, complicated family situation, financial difficulties, relationship concerns, or other circumstances that do not require physical effort.
The body does not know that. In nature, stress means fight or flight AKA maximum exertion. So, even though the circumstances may not require any physical effort, BP can shoot up in expectation of such. “Just in case” the heart will race instantaneously and a blood pressure will fluctuate in minutes. How high the spike will go, largely depends on..
Ultimately it is our ability to cope with stress AKA stress conditioning that decides on the magnitude of fluctuating blood pressure. Those who don’t make a mountain out of the hill, and those who are cool under pressure may never see blood pressure fluctuating wildly.
On the other hand, those who do not cope with stress well, may have a hypertensive crisis from a mere call from a doctor or a normal deadline at work. You can prevent wild blood pressure fluctuations within minutes, by putting emphasis on stress management.
There are a few simple methods that lower BP spikes substantially within a very short time. Try the hugging method, the grip method, and the step method. For a comprehensive approach get a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Low & Fluctuating Blood Pressure. It is full of natural solutions that have been proven in clinical settings.
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