Your blood pressure is typically lower after eating because the body sends blood to the gastrointestinal system to help with digestion, causing blood pressure to lower temporarily in the rest of the body.
Although high blood pressure after eating is not typical, it can be caused by consuming certain food and drink.
This article discusses symptoms, potential causes, diagnosis, and treatment of high blood pressure after eating.
High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when the force of blood that flows through the arteries is higher than it should be. Anything over 130/80 mm HG (millimeters of mercury) is considered high blood pressure.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure After Eating
In most cases, high blood pressure does not have any symptoms. Despite popular belief, high blood pressure does not cause headaches or nosebleeds unless blood pressure is so high that it is a medical emergency.
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is by having it measured by a healthcare provider or at home using a blood pressure monitoring device.
Causes of High Blood Pressure After Eating
Certain foods and drinks can cause blood pressure to rise after consuming them. They include:
- Salt: Eating too much salt (sodium) causes the body to retain (hang onto) fluid. Eating foods with a lot of sodium can cause temporary increases in blood pressure.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG): This type of sodium is used as a flavor enhancer and can also cause blood pressure to increase. It is commonly used as a seasoning in Chinese food.
- Beverages with caffeine (tea, coffee, and many sodas)
- Alcoholic beverages
Smoking also causes an immediate rise in blood pressure. If you have a cigarette after meals, the increase in blood pressure could be from smoking rather than eating.
It’s important not to smoke or consume alcohol or caffeine 30 minutes before having your blood pressure taken since tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine can raise blood pressure.
How to Treat High Blood Pressure After Eating
If your blood pressure is high after eating, you should limit foods or drinks known to raise blood pressure. Limiting sodium intake if you already have high blood pressure or prehypertension (elevated blood pressure that isn’t yet high enough to be hypertension) is important, as too much sodium can further increase blood pressure.
It’s recommended that adults consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. If you have hypertension, healthcare providers recommend an even lower sodium intake, somewhere around 1,500 milligrams per day. Most people’s sodium intake comes from processed foods and food from restaurants.
Foods that are typically high in sodium include:
- Processed meats (deli meats, sausage, bacon, and ham)
- Canned soups, bouillon, and dried soup mixes
- Condiments (ketchup, soy sauce, and some salad dressings)
- Snack foods (pretzels, popcorn, and chips)
- Marinades and sauces
If your blood pressure continues to be high after eating despite eliminating foods and drinks that typically raise blood pressure, you should contact a healthcare provider.
To reduce sodium in your diet, avoid using table salt, read nutrition labels, and look for foods with labels containing words such as “sodium free,” “low sodium,” and “unsalted.”
Complications of High Blood Pressure After Eating
If high blood pressure is left uncontrolled, it can lead to complications, including:
Tests to Diagnose the Cause of High Blood Pressure After Eating
Because high blood pressure doesn’t have symptoms, the only way to know if you have it is by having your blood pressure measured using a blood pressure cuff. This can be done by a healthcare provider or by using an at-home device for blood pressure monitoring.
Your healthcare provider can discuss ways to manage your blood pressure, including lifestyle changes, keeping a healthy weight, and, in some cases, medications.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
It is important that you do not attempt to diagnose yourself with high blood pressure. Contact a healthcare provider if:
- Your blood pressure reading is consistently higher than normal.
- You have more than one unusually high blood pressure reading.
- Your blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or greater, without any other symptoms.
If your blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or higher and you have any of the following symptoms, call 911, as these are signs of a hypertensive crisis:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Back pain
- Change in vision
- Difficulty speaking
Call 911 or your healthcare provider immediately if you are pregnant and have a systolic (upper number) blood pressure reading of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic (lower number) reading of 110 mm Hg or higher. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.
If you have high blood pressure after eating, it’s important to evaluate whether your diet consists of foods or drinks that cause blood pressure to go up after consuming them. Try eliminating or cutting back on these foods and beverages to see if your blood pressure improves. Contact your healthcare provider if your blood pressure continues to be high despite making these changes.
A Word From Verywell
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to major complications, including heart attack and stroke. Poor diet is a major contributor to high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high after eating, it could be from certain foods and drinks.
A healthful diet can both prevent and help control high blood pressure. Talk to your healthcare provider about dietary and other changes you can make to help keep your blood pressure at an ideal level.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes high blood pressure after eating?
How do I know if I have high blood pressure after eating?
Should I see a healthcare provider if I have high blood pressure after eating?
If you have tried eliminating foods and drinks that raise blood pressure after consuming them and still have high blood pressure after eating, you should consult a healthcare provider.
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