What factors affect blood pressure?

One factor that affects blood pressure is age. With age, sometimes the resistance and the amount of stiffness that the blood vessels and arteries have can change. This can lead to hypertension, or high blood pressure, over time. Other reasons that people get high blood pressure include a couple of rare diseases that may be inherited, or a person may be born with.

Some factors that affect blood pressure are important because they are potentially reversible and can change with just simple modifications. For example, salt -- sodium intake -- in the diet. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is composed of take-out and prepared foods, which are consistently high in sodium. Blood pressure can also change just from acute issues such as stress levels and lack of sleep. Even sleep apnea can cause changes in blood pressure.

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Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

Blood pressure is affected by any event or behavior that alters the body’s cardiovascular system specifically: peripheral resistance, vessel elasticity or cardiac output.

There are a number of factors that cause changes in the cardiovascular system and thereby affect blood pressure. Many of these factors have a short-term effect on blood pressure, but over time the effect may become long-term.

Some of the factors causing a short-term affect on blood pressure are

  • Asleep or awake – Sleeping usually results in a lowering of BP
  • Body position - lying down results in a lowing of BP while sitting or standing results in an increase in BP
  • Emotional state - stress and anger increase BP while being relaxed decreases BP
  • Temperature – blood pressure will tend to go up when a person is cold
  • Sleep apnea - pauses in breathing while sleeping raise blood pressure
  • Smoking – increases blood pressure
  • Caffeine – increases blood pressure
  • Alcohol – increases blood pressure

The last four items, sleep apnea, smoking, caffeine and alcohol over an extended period of time can cause the resting blood pressure to increase to the impact of these factors on the heart muscle and vascular resistance of the circulatory system.

Eric Olsen
Fitness Specialist

During physical or mental activity, blood pressure tends to rise; during rest or sleep, it's lower. Emotional stress can elevate the blood pressure significantly. Certain drugs can as well, such as the caffeine in coffee and the nicotine in cigarettes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.