How does stress contribute to high blood pressure?
When we experience stress, our bodies undergo a series of physiological changes as part of the fight-or-flight response. This response is designed to help us react quickly in dangerous or threatening situations. One of the ways our bodies respond to stress is by releasing certain chemicals such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol.
Chemicals in our body have the ability to constrict our blood vessels, allowing for increased blood flow to our muscles and heart. This physiological response can be beneficial in certain situations, such as during brief periods of stress. However, prolonged or ongoing stress can negatively impact our heart and blood vessel health.
When stress becomes chronic, the constant release of these chemicals can lead to a sustained increase in blood pressure. The narrowed blood vessels make it harder for blood to flow freely through the body, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood. Over time, this increased workload on the heart can contribute to high blood pressure.
Cortisol, which is sometimes called the "stress hormone," does things to our bodies that affect our blood pressure. It makes our kidneys hold on to more salt and changes how our blood vessels react to other things that help control blood pressure.
It's important to note that while stress may contribute to high blood pressure, it is not the main cause. Other factors such as genetics, lifestyle choices (such as diet and exercise), and pre-existing medical conditions also play a role in developing hypertension.
Managing stress through various techniques like regular exercise, relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing or meditation), maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and seeking support from friends or professionals can all help reduce its impact on our overall health - including maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
When we detect danger, our bodies have a built-in safety mechanism to get us to safety. By triggering several chemicals (Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and cortisol) to narrow blood vessels and increase blood flow into the muscles and heart to facilitate the appropriate action, our bodies start to get us ready to combat the threat or flee from the danger. Although it has not been established that stress is the only factor contributing to high blood pressure, a continual state of anxiety in response to stress has been shown to increase blood pressure, harm the heart, and even increase the risk of stroke.
What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure due to stress?
By using a blood pressure monitor, whether it's at the doctor's office, local pharmacy, or a home blood pressure machine, we can easily obtain an estimated blood pressure reading. It is important to understand what constitutes normal blood pressure in order to maintain good cardiovascular health.
The normal blood pressure ranges for adults are typically expressed in two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic blood pressure represents the force exerted on the arterial walls when the heart contracts, while the diastolic blood pressure represents the force when the heart is at rest between beats.
For adults, a normal blood pressure reading is generally considered to be around 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or lower. The systolic value should ideally be below 120 mmHg and the diastolic value below 80 mmHg.
It is important to note that individual variations may exist based on age, overall health condition, and other factors. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended for an accurate assessment of your specific situation.
Regular monitoring of your blood pressure can help identify any potential issues early on and enable timely intervention if necessary. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, balanced diet, stress management, and avoiding tobacco use can also contribute to maintaining normal blood pressure levels.
“Anxiety and stress themselves don’t necessarily elevate blood pressure in the long term, but they often have an impact on lifestyle factors, which can absolutely contribute to elevations in blood pressure.”
Long term effects of stress on blood pressure health.
The long-term effects of stress on blood pressure can have significant implications for overall health. If stress is not resolved or lessened, it can lead to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This condition occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is consistently too high.
Having high blood pressure can have serious implications on your cardiovascular health. It puts extra pressure on the heart and blood vessels, which in turn increases the chances of experiencing heart-related problems like coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Moreover, hypertension can also affect the functioning of other organs, particularly the kidneys and can lead to disorders or dysfunctions due to the additional workload they have to handle.
Furthermore, prolonged high blood pressure can have detrimental effects on brain function. It may contribute to cognitive decline and increase the risk of conditions such as dementia.
To maintain healthy blood pressure levels and prevent potential health complications, it is essential to effectively manage stress. There are various stress management techniques that can be beneficial, such as engaging in regular exercise, practicing relaxation exercises, incorporating mindfulness practices into daily routines, and seeking support from healthcare professionals. Additionally, it is important to regularly monitor blood pressure levels for early detection and intervention if needed. Individuals can effectively minimize the long-term impact of stress on their overall health by implementing these proactive measures.
How to reduce high blood pressure due to stress:
1. Best Exercise To Lower Blood Pressure
- Jumping rope
- Stationary or outdoor bicycling
- Cross-country skiing
- Roller or ice skating
- Aerobic dance classes (i.e. Zumba, kick boxing),
- Swimming, and water aerobics
2. Reduce caffeinated beverages
Black brewed coffee has 96 mg of caffeine but 8 ounces of decaffeinated coffee only have 2 mg of caffeine. Black tea includes 47 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces, compared to 28 mg in green tea and just 2 mg in decaffeinated black tea.
Black Decaf Coffee
black decaf tea
This is a simple way to cut back on our caffeine consumption without sacrificing the taste of a cup of decaf coffee or tea.
Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of meditation in lowering blood pressure, anxiety, and stress.
Long-term benefits of meditation include:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Calming the mind
- Reducing the release of stress hormones
- Better restful sleep
4. Obtain help from a healthcare profession such as family physician or counselor
It is a good idea to see your primary care physician on a regular basis for general checkup. High blood pressure should be carefully monitored by a trained healthcare professional regardless if you are on a prescription medication or not.
If the high blood pressure is coupled with stress and anxiety, a psychologist can help with counseling and provide other psychotherapy to help you to cope and eliminate the factors that causes stress.
- Spa treatments
- Mini-vacation (short trips to a neighboring town)