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Your blood pressure varies throughout each day. When you are exercising and your body requires greater blood flow, the pressure increases. When you are resting, blood pressure decreases; it is lowest when you are asleep. It may change when you become excited, when you have a sudden injury, or after you smoke a cigarette. Many factors cause changes in the amount of blood your heart pumps as well as the state of the arterioles.If you increase the amount of water flowing through a garden hose, you will increase the pressure in the hose. And if you decrease the diameter of the nozzle of the hose, you will increase the pressure in the rest of the hose. The quantity of blood being pumped and the diameter of your arteries are regulated by hormones secreted by various organs and glands and by your nervous system. Some hormones cause the diameter of your arterioles to decrease. They act on the thin layers of smooth muscle cells surrounding each arteriole, causing them to constrict, or squeeze together. Other nervous system and hormonal factors (parasympathetic nervous system and its hormones) cause arterioles to be less constricted and more dilated.Your arteries and heart react to hormones and your nervous system and cause your blood pressure to go up or down. One hormone that causes squeezing of the smooth muscle cells of your arterioles is norepinephrine. You may recall reading about this hormone in psychology books. Together with epinephrine, this hormone is produced as a defense mechanism in what has been called the “fight or flight” reaction. When you are excited or more active more of it is secreted. As part of the body’s alarm system this hormone goes directly to the arterioles to do its work.

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