How often have you heard someone complain that they were so mad that their blood pressure was going up? While there is still not much direct evidence that proves stress causes high blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, it can have a profound effect on its development.
How Stress Effects Blood Pressure
Studies show that stress can raise blood pressure, and that repeated blood pressure elevation can lead to a condition known as hypertension. Also, chronic stress stimulates the nervous system to produce large amounts of vasoconstricting (that means your blood vessels narrow) hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that also cause an increase in blood pressure.
Another connection between stress and hypertension was proven when scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported that stress causes our bodies to make a surplus of disease-fighting white blood cells. That, in turn, can cause an increase in inflammation in the arteries of people with a condition called atherosclerosis, where the artery walls are thickened by a build-up of plaque.
Stress Can Lead to Unhealthy Behaviors That Put You at Risk for Hypertension
It is also widely recognized that when people are under stress, they tend to eat poorly. Grabbing a doughnut, a pint of ice cream, or a bag of chips when you are stressed is not uncommon, and eating these foods can lead to poor nutrition…yet another risk factor for hypertension. When people are stressed, they also tend to overeat and exercise less, leading to obesity. Some are even more likely to drink alcohol and smoke. Often, patients claim that stress interferes with their ability to sleep. All these behaviors are risk factors for hypertension. Some believe that high levels of stress can also raise your cholesterol levels, yet another risk factor.
What Can Be Done To Reduce Stress
Recently, doctors are recognizing the effect stress has on hypertension, and are recommending that their patients reduce the stress in their lives. If patients are unable to do that, then perhaps it is time to look at how you handle stress.
Stop responding to stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, or not exercising. These behaviors only make matters worse. Instead, try exercising. Connect with people, and find some meaningful purpose in your life, despite the stress.
Many people find it helpful to meditate. Some find yoga to be a great stress reducer. Others find that just being out in nature can reduce stress, and restore their sense of calm.
Although a single cause of hypertension may not be identified, the general consensus is that various factors contribute to blood pressure elevation. Therefore, the effect of stress on blood pressure is of increasing relevance and importance. Although stress may not directly cause hypertension, it can lead to repeated blood pressure elevations that may eventually lead to hypertension. Most agree, there is definitely a connection.
If you feel your stress levels are not healthy, and you have hypertension or are at risk for developing it, please contact South Carolina Internal Medicine Associate & Rehabilitation, and let their team of experts assist you in regaining good health. Call (803) 749-1111 today, or schedule an appointment online.