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Blood pressure boosters

Certain risk factors for high blood pressure are well known: obesity, aging, heredity, smoking, a diet high in sodium. But did you know that other factors influence how high your numbers go—sometimes temporarily?

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects as many as one in three adults and has been called the “silent killer” because it often goes undetected. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg or above is now considered too high. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.

You can combat high blood pressure through lifestyle changes and with medication. But first, learn what other factors may be making your numbers spike:

  • Exercise. Long-term high blood pressure can cause enlargement and stiffening of the heart, but the short-term blood pressure elevation caused by exercise doesn’t hurt this all-important organ. In fact, exercise helps the heart pump more efficiently.
  • Stress. Blood pressure can rise as a response to distressing events, but once the stress disappears, blood pressure returns to normal. However, frequent temporary spikes in blood pressure can affect blood vessels, the heart and kidneys much like persistent high blood pressure can. When you’re stressed, you’re also more likely to engage in blood-pressure-elevating behavior, such as smoking and drinking excessively and eating unhealthy foods.
  • Diet pills. Diet-suppression aids often contain stimulants, which can raise blood pressure.
  • Pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can raise blood pressure by causing the body to hold on to salt and water, making the kidneys work less efficiently.
  • Decongestants. Certain decongestants and cold medications may elevate blood pressure.
  • Prescription medications. These include Celebrex, Ritalin and Epogen, as well as antidepressants Wellbutrin, Zyban, Effexor, Nardil and some immunosuppressants.
  • Herbal supplements. Bitter orange, ephedra, ginseng, licorice and St. John’s wort can raise blood pressure levels and also affect blood pressure medications.
  • Too much alcohol. Excessive amounts can raise your blood pressure as well as interfere with blood pressure medications.