Did you know that the position of your body (such as while standing) can decrease and increase blood pressure (BP)? It’s perfectly normal to have blood pressure fluctuation. This occurs to respond what you are doing and what your body needs. For instance, during exercise your blood pressure (BP) increases to rapidly distribute more oxygen and nutrients to the cells of muscles. After exercise, it will naturally return to its normal level.
However, to avoid the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the resting BP shouldn’t be higher than 120 /80 mm Hg.
Hypertension is a medical term to describe high blood pressure. Generally, it’s categorized into 3 major phases; pre-hypertension, stage I hypertension, and stage II hypertension.
In some cases, the underlying cause is identifiable. For example, it’ may be caused by certain medical conditions such as kidneys failure and overactive thyroid. This kind of hypertension is called as secondary hypertension.
And when the exact cause of your high blood pressure is unknown, it’s usually called as primary hypertension. In such case, poor diet & other lifestyle factors may be the main culprits.
In general, here are some common risk factors of hypertension:
- Unchangeable, uncontrollable risk factors. These include race (blacks are at higher risk than whites), a family history of hypertension, and age (your risk increases with age).
- Poor diet factors, such as; excessive consumption of salt, lack of potassium, abusing alcohol, and lack of dietary vitamin D. See also best and worst foods for your BP in this section!
- Factors associated with the level of your physical activity. More physical activities a day is great to help maintain your BP at its healthy level. In fact, hypertension is more common in sedentary individuals. Therefore, regular exercise is important.
- Overweight /obesity. The heart is likely to work harder when you’re not on your best, healthy weight’s scale. This can trigger your systolic and diastolic pressure to rise easily. Systolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries when your heart is contracting. Diastolic pressure is the force of the blood against the artery walls when your heart is not contracting (at rest /between beats).
- Other lifestyle factors include stress and anxiety – both can cause a temporary raised blood pressure. Chewing tobacco also has an effect because it can hurt your blood vessels, provoking high blood pressure.
And for secondary hypertension, it’s likely to occur if you have certain chronic conditions such as kidneys disease (the most common cause of secondary hypertension), high cholesterol, thyroid problem, diabetes, coarctation of the aorta (narrowing aorta condition at birth ), adrenal gland problem, and sleep apnea.
Moreover, pregnancy and certain birth control pills sometimes also have an effect on BP.
The gravity is usually to blame. Soon while you stand up, the flow of your blood through your blood vessels will go to the legs due to gravity.
This decreases the amounts of blood that circulate back to the heart. As a result, there is less blood pumped by the heart and your blood pressure may decrease for a while.
This decline is usually temporary, why? Keep reading!
In general, doctors use the resting BP to determine whether your BP is categorized normal or hypertension!
The cuff of sphygmomanometer is usually placed on the arm. And to get the accurate reading of your resting BP, position your arm properly so it is at the level of your heart. That’s why the best position for accurate reading is with lying down. Don’t do the test while standing!
The raised BP can be noticed clearly when you move from sitting to standing.
Soon after standing from sitting, there will be a momentary drop of BP due to the decreased volume of blood flow through arteries – as noted before. But typically, this only occurs at very short time. Because your body has baroreceptors (special cells that stimulate your heart to beat faster to respond this momentary drop). As a result, you have an increase in your BP a few seconds after the initial drop [reference].
In most cases, the body is able to anticipate this fluctuation. But sometimes it may also cause a condition called postural hypotension.
Postural hypotension is relatively more common in elderly people. It is a condition in which blood pressure drops easily with certain positions. The condition may cause feeling light headed right away after standing from sitting, weakness, nausea, confusion, blurry vision, or probably fainting – depending on how severe it drops!