Intermittent High Blood Pressure

Page content

What is Intermittent High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by a volume of blood against the walls of the arteries which deliver it to the different parts of the body after being pumped out from the heart. The arteries are elastic vessels whose walls can constrict and dilate depending on many factors like disease, chemicals and stress. The normal range of blood pressure may differ from person to person, and changes in the internal and external environment may alter this, resulting in pressures outside the usual range. An abnormal increase is usually considered when blood pressure readings rise above 140/90.

Intermittent or sporadic increases in the blood pressure of normal persons and in known hypertensive patients can occur. If these do not occur too often and if blood pressure readings are quickly controlled or return to normal, no serious complications may result. However, if uncontrolled or if blood pressure becomes labile, serious complications may develop.

Causes of Intermittent High Blood Pressure

People who are diagnosed to be hypertensive but without apparent cause such as kidney disease, congenital disease or adrenal gland tumors are said to be suffering from primary hypertension. However there are risk factors that can contribute to the development of high blood pressure such as advancing age, smoking and positive family history of the disease. These patients do not usually have symptoms of high blood pressure except for occasional dizziness, and sometimes they cannot detect sudden increases of blood pressure. Even with maintenance medications they can experience spikes in blood pressure readings from time to time.

Non-hypertensives can also experience intermittent increases in blood pressure. Blood pressure (BP) may suddenly increase due to:

  • Reaction to stress and anxiety – although stress itself does not necessarily increase one’s BP, his/her reactions like overeating, smoking and excessive drinking can cause spikes in BP
  • Getting less than five hours of sleep at night can cause increases in BP
  • The use of tobacco and even second-hand smoke can temporarily raise BP
  • Excessive caffeine intake – may affect the release of hormones causing an increase in BP
  • Drinking too much alcohol – having more than three drinks in one sitting can raise BP levels
  • Cold weather – BP is usually higher during winter than during summer
  • White-coat hypertension – spikes in BP occurs in a doctor’s clinic because of stress or anticipation

Prevention and Treatment of Intermittent High BP

After thorough medical evaluation a person who is found to have blood pressure readings consistently above 140/90 are usually given anti-hypertensive medications such as diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors. Depending on concomitant conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, additional medications may also be included. Proper monitoring of blood pressure may be done both at home and in medical clinics to ensure adequacy of treatment.

Intermittent surges in blood pressure may be prevented in many ways. These are important to prevent the risks and complications of decreased blood supply to the heart, brain and kidneys as a result of sudden constriction of arteries. Among these risks are stroke, heart attack, ruptured aneurysm and kidney failure. Preventive measures include:

  • Avoidance of tobacco smoking as well as second-hand smoke inhalation
  • Avoidance of too much alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Getting enough rest and sleep, as well as relaxation techniques to manage stress
  • Avoiding salty foods, junk foods and other foods rich in cholesterol and sugar
  • Including more sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in the diet, such as fruits and vegetables
  • Getting enough exercise and an appropriate diet to maintain an ideal weight
  • Compliance with the intake of medications

Although hypertension has many life threatening risks and complications, the good news is that the disease can be prevented and controlled by starting with lifestyle modifications that can also help avert other related diseases. Medical treatment is likewise available and proper compliance is important in ensuring effective blood pressure control.


Mayo Clinic, “High blood pressure (hypertension)”,

Blood Pressure, “A Brief Overview Of Intermittent Hypertension”,

American Heart Association, “Prevention & Treatment of High Blood Pressure”,