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Stress And High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common condition that affects a large percentage of the UK population. One aspect that isn't often discussed is the effect that stress has on hypertension. Whilst other factors are also important in the detection stage, stress is one that you can begin to address with immediate effect.

What causes stress?

Stress is an inevitable part of day-to-day life, and it is difficult to change your lifestyle to completely eliminate it. However, some people are more inclined to experience stress than others, and may also be more sensitive to its effects and the way it influences blood pressure. Stress can be triggered by the following factors:

  1. Stress at work can include:

    • A workload that is higher than you can comfortably manage
    • Problems with colleagues
    • Feeling anxious about giving presentations etc.
  2. Stress in your personal life:

    • Problems in marriage or other romantic/personal relationships
    • Bereavement
    • Fears or uncertainty about your financial situation
    • Planning a holiday
    • Christmas period
    • Large life events such as marriage or moving to a new home
  3. Other things that can cause stress include:

    • Generalised anxiety/panic disorders
    • Unexpected events such as burglaries
    • Traumatic experiences

Everyone experiences stress in different ways. Whilst some people are able to prevent it affecting them in any significant way, other people are troubled to the extent that it puts their health at risk.

How does stress affect blood pressure?

When you are stressed, your body's 'fight or flight' response is triggered. This is a short-term reaction, which you'll probably have noticed in the past. Your heart rate increases, you may feel your muscles tense up, and you will feel a surge in adrenaline. Due to your increase in heart rate, as well as the tenseness in the muscles, your systolic and diastolic pressures will certainly rise.

It's important to note that, once whatever is causing the stress is removed, your blood pressure should return to normal. However, frequent stress-induced blood pressure spikes can cause issues similar to those resulting from long-term hypertension. This can sometimes be seen in damage to blood vessels, heart, and the kidneys.

Not only can stress damage your body, your mood and behaviour can also suffer.

Body Mood Behaviour
Heart disease Depression Weight gain/loss
Chest pains Anxiety Tobacco use
Tiredness Lack of drive Withdrawal
Change in libido (sex drive) Anger Angry flare-ups
Upset stomach Irrationality

How can you reduce stress?

People often turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or unhealthy snacks to deal with stress, as a way to wind down after work. However, all these vices have an adverse effect on your blood pressure. Some healthier methods for managing stress and high blood pressure can be found below:

  1. Make sure you're getting adequate sleep

    Lack of sleep can make you miserable and irritable, and can also negatively affect your energy levels. When you're tired, you may also be likely to blow things out of proportion – adding to your stress levels.

  2. Get plenty of exercise

    Exercise is a considered to be a fantastic stress-buster. It not only reduces tension, it also releases endorphins, which are guaranteed to improve your mood.

  3. Breathing and meditation techniques

    Meditation and Yoga have been widely regarded as being good for stress for a very long time. Some studies have shown breathing exercises can lower systolic blood pressure by 5mm Hg or more.

  4. Take control of your schedule

    It's normal to feel stressed when you're rushed. The more a person is able to juggle their life and work, the lower their levels of stress tend to be.

  5. Eating a healthy diet

    People who eat a diet that includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats have a significantly lower chance of suffering from high blood pressure. Whilst some treats are fine in moderation, it's important to eat healthily for the majority of the time, especially if you're prone to stress and hypertension.

  6. Talking to someone

    There's nothing to be ashamed of if you feel you'd like to talk to someone about anxiety and stress. It doesn't have to be your GP; it can just be a helpful conversation with a friend. It's also worth talking to your doctor about ways to lower your blood pressure if you think it might be too high.

  7. Prescription medication

    Medications such as Propranolol (a popular beta-blocker) can help bring your heart rate down and lower your blood pressure. Doctors will often prescribe these types of treatments to help people with stress, as well as anxiety disorders.

Christmas Stress

Although regarded as one of the most joyous days of the year, Christmas can also be an incredibly stressful time of year. Past studies into this have found that the festive period is a major cause of stress, anxiety and related hypertension for many people.

Avoid Stress and High Blood Pressure
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