Help normalize my spiking blood pressure!
October 10, 2009 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me not freak out about my suddenly spiking blood pressure? This is related to birth control and anxiety. Also looking for methods to calm myself down in anticipation of a reading.

Some history: Have not had any indication of high blood pressure since I started taking birth control 5 years ago- I typically register in at 120/80. I was on Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo for 3 years and switched to Yaz 2 years ago after some ovarian cysts showed up.

I used to be overweight but lost 45 pounds and am now at what I believe to be a relatively healthy weight [about 5'3", 137 lbs]. I do not smoke and I don't consume caffeine. I don't have a stellar diet, but I try to keep an eye on my sodium intake. I work out around 3 times a week, though college classes are taking a toll on my consistency.

I have had a history of anxiety for just about forever. Panic attacks, avoidance, social anxiety, health anxiety, and so on.

Went to my OB-GYN yesterday for a regular pap and pelvic, they were about to renew my birth control scrip when they mentioned my blood pressure was too high- about 130/89. They waited about 10 minutes and took it again- even higher, because I was nervous. Now I'm told I have to get it retaken elsewhere before I am given the scrip to prove it's not prehypertension or higher.

Of course, I'm now freaking out [over the possibility of HBP, over possibly not being able to obtain my birth control] and my heart's been racing ever since. I took one measure at home of my blood pressure and it was really quite high- something ridiculous like 144/89.

Now I fear that I will not be able to calm myself down enough to get back to normal, much less when I go for an official reading.

Is there any reason my BP would jump so high in a one-month period since my last normal reading? Besides deep breathing, how else can I calm myself down in order to obtain a neutral reading?

Yaaargh. Help!
posted by rachaelfaith to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
"Elsewhere" confuses me. I don't get why they are sending you elsewhere to get another reading. Your doctor, whom you visited yesterday, should be able to advise you about what it means, what you should do about it, and how it impacts your birth control options.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:25 PM on October 10, 2009

As you know there can be several reasons for your high blood pressure and an important piece of information which you allude to is that you have had the current series of high readings after one month of a series of normal readings.

Apart from that you would be classified as hypertensive. I would be tempted to get a full exam and not ignore it because sodium and water retention is a gradual process which gives the body time to get used to the excess fluid and not push BP so high in such a short period.

The reason I suggest you should have a full work up done is because of many reasons:

1. Short bursts of high blood pressure can sometims be more dangerous than long standing high BP.

2. You mention history of anxiety / panic attacks which can cause short bursts of high BP and specialist monitoring can distinguish between these and (essential) hypertension and there is a different pathway for treatment if this is indeed the case.

3. Causes of short bursts of hypertension can be very different (including hormone related) from bog standard high BP and many of them can be cured.

Again, MeFi is great but not a substitute for good specialists advice. Good luck.
posted by london302 at 2:34 PM on October 10, 2009

A very similar question was posted a few days ago.
posted by peep at 3:08 PM on October 10, 2009

something ridiculous like 144/89.

144/89 is barely Stage 1 hypertension. See an internist instead of an OB for a second opinion. There's really no reason to be panicking at this point. You should do some reading about *why* we even treat hypertension to begin with.
posted by gramcracker at 3:37 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with gramcracker. I have diagnosed hypertension (set off by pre-eclampsia when I had my first baby), and my blood pressure was soaring 160/110 at its highest. THAT was high blood pressure. I wouldn't worry so much about yours at this point. I'm stage 1 hypertension, and my blood pressure is higher than yours when I'm not taking my meds (like, 140/95). My doc is generally happy when my pressures are where yours are or lower.

Anyway, yes, see an internist. AND...relax! It really does help your pressures come down.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 12:19 AM on October 11, 2009

You sound like you have 'white coat hypertension' (and indeed, as others have said above, you're only barely into the realms of slightly high blood pressure when you're at your most anxious).

The next step would probably to have an ambulatory blood pressure done; this means you're hooked up to a cuff and machine for 24 hours, and every hour it inflates the cuff and takes a BP reading (you'll probably have a bruised arm and a bad night's sleep). The idea being that it happens so often, and in the context of you going about your normal business that you shouldn't get the anxiety, and have a reading that represents your 'normal' rather than your 'anxious' BP reading. I suspect this would be more useful than you trying to become unnaturally calm before a doctor's appointment!
posted by Coobeastie at 2:42 AM on October 11, 2009

You can get a blood pressure monitor at the drug store that is stupid easy to use. You can take readings over the day and test what kind of relaxation techniques work for you. Keep a journal so that if the doctor sees a spike and you can show a week or normal readings it's easier to show your high reading is likely a white coat outlier.
Everyone is being pretty dismissive - and in general - I'd tend to agree - your pressure isn't that high but do keep an eye on it. I don't take YAZ anymore (or any hormonal birth control) because I had a TIA earlier this year at 36 years old. This is not something you want.
posted by Wolfie at 10:24 PM on October 11, 2009

Response by poster: I am glad to hear that my blood pressure is not alarming to anyone [I've taken home readings anywhere from 151/96 to 135/84 in the past 2 days] but still, my OB/GYN refuses to prescribe my birth control until it hits somewhere around 120/80.

posted by rachaelfaith at 12:23 PM on October 12, 2009

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