When is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate?

  • Is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuateDoes a blood pressure spike mean your heart is in trouble? Is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate? 

It depends.

To put it simply, fluctuating blood pressure can range from being a sign of great health to being a sign of a complete health breakdown. Your job is to distinguish between the good and the bad blood pressure fluctuations. The guide below will help you with the task.

But before you go any further make sure that your BP spike isn’t a machine error. BP monitors aren’t always accurate, sometimes they “go bad”, and sometimes its just about faulty batteries. If your monitor is a bit “wonky”, “old style”, or unreliable consider getting one that will give you accurate numbers.

Also, before making any conclusions, you need to understand about BP timing. Timing makes a huge difference in interpreting the numbers. Your 200/85 may be either absolutely normal or requiring doctor’s assistance depending on the circumstances. Here is the guide on how to interpret those circumstances and properly classify your blood pressure spikes.

When is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate?

You may be surprised to learn that the number one reason for blood pressure spikes is… normal physiology. Contrary to a popular belief healthy blood pressure does not keep at 120/80 mmHg, but always fluctuate according to the body needs. In fact, seeing 120/80 all the time is a bad sign.

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Blood pressure spikes have a purpose. Its job is to facilitate blood flow and oxygen supply to the tissue. Let me give you an example. When you suddenly stand up from sitting, your BP should increase to overcome gravity. If you are in perfect health, there should be an increase of 10 or even more points right after the maneuver. Absence of blood pressure spike at that time, or worse, an appearance of a BP dip, should be interpreted a sign of compromised health.

Getting up is not the only time one should get a blood pressure spike. Any physical exertion, that requires extra blood flow and oxygen can cause it. So, while 150/90 during a casual walk may be worrisome, 200/95 may be completely normal during a weight lifting session.

So, when is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate? The answer is simple: only during physical exertion and times when your body needs more blood flow and more oxygen. Blood pressure spikes at other times aren’t healthy.

Are blood pressure spikes from stress normal?

When blood pressure starts spiking during stress, it’s the first sign you are crossing into the badlands. Watch out! Unhealthy fluctuations creep up slowly. They look like nothing worrisome at first: an occasional spike during a doctor visit, a temporary elevation during a football game, and a slight increase before that impossible-to-meet deadline.

You know for sure you crossed the line between healthy and unhealthy when your doctor suggests “out of the blue” a gentle BP-lowering pill, even though you don’t seem to have hypertension.

Doctors are usually first ones to see the signs of stress as elevated BP, because not everyone can be perfectly relaxed during a physical. But here is the thing: BP should never spike “out of the blue”; neither at the doctor’s office, nor at a sports bar. When the numbers go up without a valid reason (physical exertion), it’s a sign that there is something off in the cardio department.

If it happens that you are in the middle of a blood pressure spike due to stress, you need to calm your nervous system down. Here is a handy technique that can bring BP down by 20 points just in few minutes. No equipment necessary.

Is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate without any stress?

Ok, not every blood pressure spike can be reduced to nothingness in a minute or two. There is a special category of blood pressure spikes that won’t come down with any calming technique.

The spikes that don’t respond to simple stress reduction techniques are usually linked to cardiovascular disease. So no, it is NOT normal for blood pressure to fluctuate without any stress (physical or emotional). And it is NOT good if the blood pressure spike does not go down in a few minutes.

Studies suggest that such spikes do not come from the ailing heart, but from hardened arteries. As the blood vessels close up from cholesterol deposits, the heart compensates by pumping harder. Increased BP is to keep the oxygen at par with the body needs. Thus, high blood pressure is not a disease, but a compensation for poor blood flow [i]

How can you tell whether you have hardened arteries? There is a simple test you can do at home. Take blood pressure at rest and record your readings. Minus the bottom number from the top, like this: 

  1. BP reading: 180/100;
  2. Calculation: 180-100 = 80

80 is your reference number. It is the difference between systolic and diastolic. In a healthy person this number is 40. 40 is ideal, as it is in 120/80 mmHg.

The bigger the gap between the top and the bottom during rest, the higher the chances for hardened arteries. A consistent difference of 60 (eg. 150/90) is already an indication of arterial stiffness. You can read more on hardened arteries in 4 fluctuating blood pressure causes article.

Arterial stiffness does NOT go away by reducing cholesterol, so forget garlic pills, oats for breakfast, walking the park, or calming yourself down with music. To reverse arterial stiffness you need lifestyle changes.

Here is the sad reality: anti-hypertensive pills force BP numbers down, but do not make the body any healthier. That’s why you can’t get better by relying on prescription meds. And that’s why you will only get worse if you continue the same lifestyle.

Is it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate up and down?

Ultimate guide to low & fluctuating blood pressureIs it normal for blood pressure to fluctuate up and down? Yes, it is. It actually happens to everyone of us all the time without our awareness. The key is “without our awareness”. Normal fluctuations adjust BP to circumstances, so that you never feel weak or breathless. Abnormal fluctuations are different. They can leave you feeling unwell and dizzy. They can even lead to heart palpitations or falls. They just don’t support the feeling of well-being.

The abnormal fluctuations have causes. As arteries get increasingly blocked and oxygen is in short supply, many organs and systems start failing. That includes the nervous system. Since it is the nervous system that manages the heart function, nervous system malfunction leads to heart malfunction.

Excessively fluctuating blood pressure is the final stage of cardiovascular disease. As BP goes up and down “without rhyme and reason”, it causes many troubling symptoms. These include dizziness, memory lapses, confusion, falls, and personality changes. This is when mouth gets dry while the bladder voids at night, eyes don’t adjust to light, stomach does not digest, bowels get weird, erections don`t happen, the skin can’t produce sweat, memory fails, confusion sets in, and mere walking upstairs becomes a dangerous proposition.

However, even at that stage it is possible to bring BP back to normal. Follow the steps outlined in The Ultimate Guide. It outlines the cause, the stages, and the treatment of fluctuating blood pressure. And don’t forget to get an accurate BP monitorso you don’t end up being mislead by it. 


Health troubles are seldom random
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