Causes Of Sudden High Blood Pressure (Spikes)


Spikes of high blood pressure are always a concern. A client of mine asked me about them because he was getting some himself. While he knew the cause of his, he wanted to know all of them. Therefore, what are causes of sudden high blood pressure?

Causes of sudden high blood pressure include the following:

  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Overactive Adrenal Glands
  • Certain Medications
  • Food and Drink
  • Pregnancy Related High Blood Pressure
  • Scleroderma
  • White Coat Hypertension
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Illegal drugs
  • Smoking

This article will explain in detail each one of the causes. Knowing what causes sudden high blood pressure is a must know for anyone, especially for those struggling with blood pressure already (r).

11 Causes of Sudden High Blood Pressure

1. Chronic Kidney Disease

High blood pressure is both an important cause and consequence of chronic kidney disease. This means if you have high blood pressure you are more likely to have kidney disease. Likewise, if you have kidney disease, this can sometimes cause sudden high blood pressure (r).

The following are 2 examples:

Polycystic kidney disease. In this inherited condition, cysts in the kidneys prevent the kidneys from working correctly and can raise blood pressure.

Glomerular disease. The kidneys filter waste and sodium using microscopic-sized filters called glomeruli that can sometimes become swollen. If the swollen glomeruli can’t work normally, you may develop high blood pressure.

2. Thyroid Issues

If you have or know of someone with a thyroid problem, just the stress of trying to keep it regulated can raise blood pressure. When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, hyperthyroidism, or when it doesn’t produce enough hormone (hypothyroidism), high blood pressure can result.

The parathyroid glands regulate levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body. If the glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone, the amount of calcium in the blood rises, which triggers a sudden rise in blood pressure.

Numerous studies (r) have shown increased blood pressure associated with hypothyroidism. The main reason is the constriction of blood vessels and stiffness. Another reason is obesity because hypothyroid people are typically more overweight than those with a normal thyroid.

3. Overactive Adrenal Glands

Up to 10% of people with high blood pressure have an unrecognized adrenal gland disorder (r). When adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of certain hormones, they are called overactive. One of these hormones, aldosterone, helps the kidneys manage water, sodium and potassium.

Too much aldosterone can cause the kidneys to retain sodium and water while flushing potassium. This imbalance of potassium and sodium with increased fluid will cause sudden high blood pressure.

4. Certain Medications

It may be no surprise to you that some medications come with side effects. Have you ever read the extremely long list the pharmacy attaches to your receipt? It’s not just prescription medicines, some over-the-counter medications can cause sudden high blood pressure.

In addition, some medications can interfere with other medications that are intended to lower blood pressure. The following are some medications that can spike blood pressure (r):

  • Medications That Contain Caffeine: There are many over-the-counter and prescription drugs that contain caffeine. While there isn’t enough evidence to prove caffeine raises long term blood pressure, it can cause a temporary spike.
  • Pain medications: Certain pain and anti-inflammatory medications can cause you to retain fluid which can cause kidney problems raising blood pressure.
  • Antidepressants: They work by changing the body’s response to brain chemicals. These chemicals can cause an increase in blood pressure.
  • Cold Medicine: Decongestants narrow the blood vessels which can cause an increase in blood pressure. In addition, some decongestants can make blood pressure medication less effective.
  • Immunosuppressants: They are usually given to people who had organ transplants. Some of them can raise blood pressure because of the ways they affect the kidneys.
  • Stimulants: Stimulants can cause your heart to beat faster.
  • Birth Control Pills: Birth control pills and hormonal birth control devices contain hormones that may narrow the blood vessels causing a sudden raise in blood pressure.
  • Biological Therapies: Some of these drugs target specific cells, and some use the body’s own immune system to fight autoimmune diseases and cancers. Angiogenesis inhibitors in particular and some monoclonal antibodies can spike blood pressure.

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5. Food And Drink

Certain foods can cause sudden increases in blood pressure especially ones that have tyramine. Tyramine (r) is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure. A large dietary intake of tyramine can cause the tyramine pressor response, defined as an increase in systolic blood pressure of 30 mm Hg or more.

This is especially dangerous if you’re taking Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Foods high in Tyramine can include:

  • Aged Cheeses
  • Cured Meat
  • Processed Meats
  • Pickled or Fermented Foods
  • Alcoholic Beverages

Coffee, certain drinks with caffeine (which also contains tyramine) and alcohol can cause sudden high blood pressure.

6. Pregnancy Related High Blood Pressure

During pregnancy high blood pressure may occur (r). There are several types of high blood pressure disorders in pregnancy like preeclampsia, premature birth, low birthweight and placental abruption. The following are possible causes of sudden high blood pressure during pregnancy:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Lupus
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Age
  • Carrying more than one child
  • Obesity

7. Scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune, rheumatic chronic disease that affects the body by hardening connective tissue. People with scleroderma are at an increased risk for developing pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs (r).

Some scleroderma patients have significant scarring of their lungs. This reduces the blood oxygen level which may cause a reflex increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

8. White Coat Hypertension

Many people experience nervousness at the doctor office, especially when the nurse is wrapping the blood pressure cuff around the arm. Some are totally calm until the cuff starts inflating because everybody wants a low blood pressure reading.

White coat hypertension is when blood pressure is elevated in the doctor’s office but not in other settings.

This is one of the reasons why the American Heart Association recommends home monitoring of blood pressure. If you’ve been thinking about buying a home blood pressure monitor, you can check out my recommendation in this same website right here, home monitors.

A study published in the journal Hypertension (study) found people with white coat hypertension are at a significantly greater risk for developing sustained high blood pressure than people who have normal blood pressure.

One possible explanation is people with white coat hypertension have a harder time managing stress and anxiety. This leads to the next topic.

9. Stress And Anxiety

In addition to the doctor’s office, feeling stress or anxiety over anything can cause blood pressure to go up. When this happens, the body sends stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream.

They create a temporary spike in blood pressure, causing heart blood vessels to narrow and the heart to beat faster. When the stressful situation is over, blood pressure goes back to its normal level (r).

In addition, stress can lead to bad habits not good for blood pressure over the long run. For instance, overeating, smoking and drinking alcohol in response to stressful situations are direct causes of sustained high blood pressure. In addition, these bad habits cause more temporary spikes in blood pressure.

10. Illegal Drugs

Many illegal drugs cause an increase in blood pressure because they narrow the arteries and increase the heart rate. Five examples of illegal drugs that can affect the heart are (r):

  1. Cocaine
  2. Anabolic Steroids
  3. Amphetamines
  4. Lysergic acid diethyl amide or LSD
  5. Ecstasy

11. Smoking

Every time someone smokes, it causes a temporary increase in blood pressure (r). The Nicotine raises the heart rate and narrows the blood vessels.

Sometimes a sudden rise in blood pressure is called a hypertensive crisis. A hypertensive crisis is the most serious blood pressure category there is. I wrote about hypertensive crisis in complete detail in another post right here Hypertensive Crisis.

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If you found this Blood Pressure topic interesting check out these related high blood pressure articles also found in this same website:

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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