Your baroreceptor reflex keeps your blood pressure steady when you experience something that raises or lowers it. A complex series of actions quickly bring your blood pressure back into a normal range. Injuries or certain conditions can damage this reflex. Medications can help.
Your baroreceptor reflex is a series of quick actions your body takes to keep your blood pressure in a normal range in response to an abrupt change in position (particularly, a seated/lying down position to a standing position). It’s the most important way your body regulates blood pressure during these short-term events. This is a relatively quick reflex that occurs over a span of a couple of heartbeats.
When there’s a change in your blood pressure, your artery walls respond accordingly. For example, with increased blood volume, your blood vessel walls stretch. In certain parts of your body, baroreceptors, which are special nerve endings, can “sense” artery wall stretch. This message goes to your brain, which interprets it as adequate blood pressure. In the absence of this stretch, your brain responds accordingly to raise your blood pressure.
If you stand up quickly, your baroreceptors sense a lack of stretching of the artery walls. This message goes to your brain, which interprets it as inadequate blood pressure. Your brain tells your blood vessels to tighten up in order to raise your blood pressure. This is just one way your body can control your blood pressure.
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Baroreceptors constantly monitor how much blood you have in your blood vessels and what the pressure is inside them. When your blood pressure needs to change, your baroreceptors tell your brain. Your brain signals your heart or blood vessels to take action that raises or lowers your blood pressure.
Any change in your body’s demand for blood can trigger your baroreceptor reflex. For example, your body may need to adjust your blood pressure when you:
Your baroreceptor reflex doesn’t have one central location. Your baroreceptor reflex consists of several areas in your body that play a part in the reflex. You have baroreceptors in your heart, arteries in your neck and inside of your lungs. Information from those areas travels to your brain and all through your body’s nervous tissue.
Your baroreceptor reflex includes neurons and the nerve fibers that carry their messages about your blood pressure. It also includes the cardiovascular system that receives those messages and acts on that information.
Conditions that can affect how well your baroreceptor reflex works include:
Tumors or neck surgery can damage the receptors that need to work well as part of your baroreceptor reflex.
Ways to check the health of your baroreceptor reflex may include:
Medications to treat dysfunction of the baroreceptor reflex include:
To keep your blood pressure steady, you can talk with your healthcare provider about:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your baroreceptor reflex works to regulate your blood pressure by responding quickly to things that make it too high or too low. You’re probably not aware of the changes your body makes when you stand or take off running, but your baroreceptor reflex is regulating your blood pressure. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re having drops in blood pressure that lead to fainting. They can help you find the source of the issue.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/18/2022.
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