Can Inflammation Cause High Blood Pressure?
Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
One of the most common things we hear from our healthcare provider is to mind our blood pressure.
Keeping a healthy blood pressure level is a cornerstone to good health. It seems like such a simple thing, but its importance can’t be overstated. It is of central importance to our overall health.
Fortunately, there are many ways to lower our blood pressure. However, there are also many factors that contribute to high blood pressure.
Good health is a combination of healthy habits. There’s no silver bullet that will deliver on all our health needs and keep us well. Building a better understanding of the things that influence our health both positively and negatively allows us to take those steps towards becoming our best selves.
Understanding the root causes behind high blood pressure and how other health factors affect it empowers our ability to make healthy choices.
What Does Blood Pressure Mean?
Blood pressure is one of the first things our healthcare provider will measure when we go in for a check-up.
You’re probably familiar with the routine: you get your arm wrapped up in a band, the attending health worker pumps air into the band, and slowly reads back your metrics.
But what does our blood pressure really tell us? Why is it such an important part of our health?
Our blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure in our blood vessels from the blood pumping through our body. When you think about it, it’s about one of the most important measurements our healthcare provider takes.
When you get your blood pressure taken, you get a sense of how hard your heart is working with every pump. The harder it has to work, the more strain we put on our ticker, which is pumping away day and night.
It goes without saying how important a healthy heart is to our overall health.
Your systolic blood pressure measures the pressure exerted by your blood as your heart beats.
Then there’s your diastolic blood pressure, which measures your blood pressure at its lowest, or the moments between each pump of the heart. Together, these measurements give a clear picture of how hard your heart is working.
What Is Considered Healthy Blood Pressure?
So if these are the numbers taken with a blood pressure test, what does a good measurement look like?
General recommendations indicate that a normal blood pressure reading is when your systolic measurement is less than 120, and your diastolic is less than 80. This means your heart does not have to pump as hard to circulate blood through your body, hence the lower numbers.
Elevated blood pressure, entering into an unhealthier range, comes in at 120-129 for systolic and less than 80 for diastolic.
This range can indicate hypertension, an official diagnosis of high blood pressure. Stage 1 hypertension is indicated by a systolic measurement between 130-139 or a diastolic range of 80-89. The higher the measurements, the higher the risk of heart failure and other conditions.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are multiple causes of high blood pressure. One of the more prominent ones is high cholesterol. When you have elevated cholesterol in your bloodstream, plaque can build up in your blood vessels and arteries.
The more blockage there is, the harder your heart has to work. At Zizi, we’re committed to battling high blood pressure, specifically when it comes to cholesterol levels. Zizi offers monthly heart monitoring without the hoops because healthcare starts at home.
Smoking cigarettes raises our blood pressure, as can stress, lack of exercise, alcohol consumption, and chronic conditions like sleep apnea, diabetes, and kidney disease.
But how does inflammation affect our blood pressure? Let’s take a look.
What Is Inflammation?
If you get a scratch or a cut on your body, the injured spot's redness, swelling, and tenderness result from inflammation. A stuffy nose can also result from inflammation in the nasal passages or sinuses.
Inflammation has a wide variety of symptoms because, like our blood pressure, it’s an absolutely crucial part of a properly functioning body.
Inflammation is an immunological response to either an outside agent or injury. It’s how your body defends itself from things like viruses or bacteria that have entered our body, or how it heals and protects injured parts of the body, inside and out.
If you get a cut or your immune system identifies a virus in your body, it will send white blood cells and other antibodies to the affected area to address the problem. Your body floods the area with these antibodies, isolating it so the invader can be removed or the injured area can be secured.
From our perspective, this looks like the red, painful swelling we see around a cut, or a feverish body temperature when we fight a virus.
What Are the Health Risks of Chronic Inflammation?
Even though inflammation is a way our body protects itself, chronic inflammation is less than ideal.
If our immune system is constantly on high alert and flooding areas of the body with antibodies that don’t need it, it can cause problems.
Acute inflammation is when our body addresses a virus or injury, takes care of it, then goes away. For the most part, it describes our inflammatory response when it’s working properly.
Chronic inflammation often accompanies inflammatory disorders and autoimmune disorders. It is when our inflammatory response targets parts of the body where there is no danger to fight or lingers when there is no reason.
Examples of chronic inflammation range from acne to psoriasis to rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation has also been associated with severe health risks like cancer and heart disease.
With all the ways that chronic inflammation can lead to negative health conditions, researchers have sought to see if there’s a connection between inflammation and high blood pressure.
Can Inflammation Cause High Blood Pressure?
The short answer is that inflammation may contribute to high blood pressure.
To determine the relationship between inflammation and high blood pressure, researchers examined a group of people with an inflammatory disorder, rheumatoid arthritis. By comparing the blood pressure levels of the folks experiencing the effects of chronic inflammation with those who don’t, they could see what role inflammation plays in blood pressure levels.
What they found is that the people with rheumatoid arthritis happened to show a higher risk of developing high pressure than their counterparts. There appeared to be a connection between c-reactive protein, an indicator of an inflammatory response, and higher blood pressure.
Vascular inflammation, inflammation that affects blood vessels, has also been shown to increase risks of hypertension and atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque on the arterial wall. As blood vessels become inflamed, it leads to a constriction of the bloodstream.
How Can I Fight Inflammation?
If there is a connection between inflammation and high blood pressure, as some research suggests, reducing inflammation in the body may be a way to lower blood pressure.
Inflammation could be lowered in a variety of ways. Reducing stress levels may help prevent or address inflammation. As with blood pressure, dietary changes can affect inflammation in the body as well — anti-inflammatory foods rich in antioxidants, like certain vegetables, fruits, and berries, could help address the health risks brought about by chronic inflammation.
How Can I Keep My Blood Pressure Low?
While fighting inflammation is one potential way to lower blood pressure, reducing your cholesterol levels can also help lower your blood pressure.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet consisting of whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables can help you keep your cholesterol levels under control.
Exercising more and avoiding stress are other ways that you can address both hypertension and high cholesterol.
Zizi Makes Care Easy
Here at Zizi, we’re committed to providing proven methods of reducing cholesterol levels.
As part of our program, you get a monthly at-home test kit to keep track of your blood lipid levels consistently, from your own home. We also provide a diet and exercise program aided by a supplement regimen that promotes lower cholesterol levels.
Learn more about lowering your cholesterol in 30 days with Zizi’s Heart Health Reset program here, or your money back.
What exactly is blood pressure? | Lively Health
Cholesterol: High Cholesterol Diseases | Cleveland Clinic
The Causes and Effects of Inflammation | El Camino Health
Association between inflammation and systolic blood pressure in RA compared to patients without RA | BioMed Center
Inflammation may be a bridge connecting hypertension and atherosclerosis | National Library of Medicine
Six Keys to Reducing Inflammation | Scripps
10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication | Mayo Clinic
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings | American Heart Association