Surprising Things That Raise Your Blood Pressure

The basics we all know about: stress, too much salt, anxiety and anger. But there is more to the picture than this.


What causes increased blood pressure is when your body is holding on to water, putting extra stress on your heart and blood vessels.

Bioidentical progesterone is a natural diuretic and can help relieve the stress when related to excess weight, and fluid retention, but there are other causes that may not be quite so easy to deal with.

We all need to know our blood pressure numbers and although temporary “spikes” aren’t necessarily a problem, numbers that remain high over time can cause serious damage.

Common causes of high blood pressure

Too much sugar

It may be even more important than salt in raising your blood pressure, especially in a processed form like high-fructose corn syrup.

People with more added sugars in their diet see a significant rise in both their upper and lower numbers. Just one 24-ounce soft drink causes an average 15-point bump in systolic pressure (the top number, or the pressure during a heartbeat) and 9 in diastolic (the bottom number, or the pressure between beats).


When your body’s cells don’t have enough water, your blood vessels tighten up.

This happens because your brain sends a signal to your pituitary gland to release a chemical that shrinks them.

So your kidneys make less urine in order to hang on to the fluid you do have, which also triggers tiny blood vessels in your heart and brain to squeeze more.

You have to pee

Holding on before you have to go to the bathroom is equally a bad idea.

Systolic pressure went up an average of about 4 points, and diastolic, 3 points, in a study of middle-aged women who hadn’t gone to the bathroom for at least 3 hours.

High blood pressure becomes more likely as you age, so you need to get accurate readings. An empty bladder could be one way to help do that.

Thyroid problems

When this gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, your heart rate slows, and your arteries get less stretchy.

Low hormone levels also might raise your LDL “bad” cholesterol, another thing that can stiffen arteries. Blood moves through hard vessels faster, pushing on the walls and raising the pressure.

Though not as common, too much thyroid hormone can make your heart beat harder and faster, which will also bump up your numbers.

Not enough potassium

Your kidneys need a balance of sodium and potassium to keep the right amount of fluid in your blood.

So even if you’re eating a low-salt diet, you could still have higher blood pressure if you’re not also eating enough fruit, veg, beans, low-fat dairy, or fish.

While you may think of bananas as the go-to source, broccoli, water chestnuts, spinach, and other leafy greens are better to get potassium if you’re watching your weight.


Sudden, or acute, pain ramps up your nervous system and raises your blood pressure.

You can see this effect when you put one hand in ice water, press on your cheek or fingernail, or get an electric shock to your finger.

Hormonal birth control

Pills, injections, and other birth control devices use hormones that narrow blood vessels, so it’s possible your blood pressure will go up.

These are given to older women to control heavy bleeding, but they are more likely to be a problem for women who are older than 35, overweight, or smokers.

You may want to keep an eye on your blood pressure, checking every 6-12 months. Most contains combination of oestrogen and synthetic progestins and have their own side effects but ones with a lower dose of oestrogen may keep your numbers closer to normal.


Again these are often prescribed to women coming off HRT and they target brain chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin

Such drugs include monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclic antidepressants, and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and can change not only your mood but also your blood pressure.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might raise blood pressure if you’re also taking lithium or other drugs that affect serotonin.


All nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can raise your numbers — whether you’re healthy or you already have high blood pressure.

Though the average rise is only a few points, there’s a wide range, which means it could affect some people much more than others.


Ingredients like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine can narrow your blood vessels. That means the same amount of blood has to squeeze through a smaller space, like a crowd pushing through a hallway.

These drugs can also make blood pressure medications less effective. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you choose over-the-counter products for sinus problems and colds that are safer if you have high blood pressure.

Herbal supplements

Do you take ginkgo, ginseng, guarana or St. John’s wort?

These and others can raise your blood pressure or change how medications work, including drugs to control high blood pressure.

If on medication always check with your pharmacist before adding in any supplements to see if there is any interaction.


This isn’t just about the number of friends you have — it’s about feeling connected. And being stressed or depressed doesn’t fully explain the effect.

It also gets worse with time: Over 4 years, the upper blood pressure of the loneliest people in a study went up more than 14 points. The researchers think an ongoing fear of rejection and disappointment and feeling more alert about your safety and security may change how your body works.

At the Doctor

You might see a difference if you compare readings during an appointment to the numbers you get at home.

Known as the “white coat effect” it sees a rise in blood pressure, and why they often take the reading twice to give you time to relax.

This effect can mean up to 10 points higher for systolic (the upper number) and 5 for diastolic (the lower number) and that can happen simply because of where you are.

The sharp increase of the first reading is likely due to nerves or anxiety.

Helpful information: 

Keeping blood pressure under control can depend on a few simple steps: eating a good diet, getting enough exercise, being a healthy weight and staying as anxiety and stress free as you can.

Not always easy at menopause when women are more likely to be subject to mood swings, emotional outbursts and irrational anger.

Always check your hormone balance as being low in progesterone can also be a factor.