Blood Pressure Concerns


Dr. Thomas Stoughton
McLeod Cardiologist

If you are concerned with high blood pressure, it is important to be aware of your salt intake and the impact it can have on your body. Consuming too much salt may result in water retention, which places extra stress on the blood vessels and heart. Although temporary spikes may not be an issue, numbers that remain high over time may result in serious damage to the heart. In addition to salt, there are many other factors that contribute to high blood pressure, even temporarily, that you should be aware of.


Added sugar may be more of a danger than salt, especially in a processed form like high-fructose corn syrup.  People who consume more added sugar in their diets may see a significant increase in their blood pressure numbers as well as an increased risk for heart disease. Whether or not sugar is worse than salt for heart health, the fact is that too much of either can be damaging to the heart.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. When this happens, oxygen levels in the body drop. It is this decline in oxygen that could lead to an increase in blood pressure and put stress on the cardiovascular system. Having sleep apnea also increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and abnormal heart rhythms.


The kidneys need a balance of sodium and potassium to maintain the right amount of fluid in the blood. Even a low-salt diet can result in high blood pressure when there are not enough fruits, veggies, beans, low-fat dairy, and fish included.


Herbal supplements can increase blood pressure or even change the way blood pressure medication works in the body. Before adding herbal supplements to your diet, please discuss their use with your primary care physician.

Coffee Break

Skip caffeinated beverages and take a bathroom break before having your blood pressure checked at the physician’s office. Caffeinated drinks that are consumed within 30 minutes of your visit can increase your blood pressure. Having a full bladder can also increase blood pressure by as much as 20 points.

White-coat Hypertension

One in four adults will have a spike in their blood pressure the minute a doctor or nurse walks into the room. Many refer to this as white-coat hypertension. If this happens to you, be sure to share this information with your medical provider.


Many decongestants contain ingredients that narrow the blood vessels, resulting in an increase in blood pressure. Decongestants may also make blood pressure medications less effective. Talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist for recommendations on over-the-counter cold or sinus products that are safer for use with high blood pressure.


Dehydration can lead to low blood pressure due to a decrease in blood volume. Blood pressure lower than 90/60 mm Hg is low blood pressure. Blood volume is the amount of fluid circulating in the blood vessels. Maintaining a normal blood volume is necessary for blood to be able to adequately reach all the tissues of the body.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, yet many are unaware that they have it. The only way to identify high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly. This can be done at a physician’s office, a local community screening, or even with a personal home blood pressure monitor.

Only a medical professional can confirm a diagnosis of high blood pressure.  Anyone who believes they may have high blood pressure should schedule a visit with their primary care physician.

Dr. Thomas Stoughton is a Cardiologist with McLeod Cardiology Associates and is accepting new patients. Self-referrals are welcome.  Appointments with Dr. Stoughton can be made by calling (843) 667-1891.