March 28, 2023

Can Stress Cause High Blood Pressure?

Stress is a normal part of life. Everyone experiences stress from time to time. However, experiencing stress for a long time can have serious negative consequences on your health—especially if you can’t control it.

High blood pressure is one of the most serious health problems caused by stress. When not treated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and dementia. These are just some of the many conditions linked to high blood pressure.

Getting your stress under control can help you manage and reduce high blood pressure. Here’s a closer look at the link between stress and high blood pressure and how to contact Healthcare Associates of Texas if you need help managing one or both conditions.

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How does stress cause high blood pressure?

Stress is your body’s natural “fight or flight” response to potentially life-threatening situations. In moments of stress, your body releases higher amounts of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. Changes such as these can temporarily increase your blood pressure, which will return to normal after the stressful moment has passed.

However, chronic stress that never goes away will usually keep your heart rate elevated and your blood vessels narrowed. High blood pressure often goes hand in hand with chronic stress for this very reason.

Chronic stress can also lead to other behaviors that cause high blood pressure. For example, some people may smoke cigarettes, indulge in junk foods, or drink alcohol when they are stressed. All these behaviors are risk factors for high blood pressure.

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How can you tell if stress is causing high blood pressure?

High blood pressure usually doesn’t cause symptoms. However, high blood pressure that is driven by stress may cause symptoms. Your symptoms may include:

  • Headaches.
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Facial redness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Heart palpitations.

The best way to find out whether stress is causing high blood pressure is to check your blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, there are five blood pressure categories:

  • Normal. A blood pressure under 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.
  • Elevated. This is when your systolic blood pressure numbers consistently range between 120 and 129 mm Hg and when your diastolic number is under 80 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension Stage 1. This is when your systolic numbers consistently range between 130 and 139 mm Hg and when your diastolic number ranges between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
  • Hypertension Stage 2. This is when your blood pressure numbers are consistently at 140/90 mm Hg or higher.
  • Hypertensive crisis. This is when your blood pressure numbers suddenly go higher than 180/120 mm Hg. Contact your doctor right away if you are having a hypertensive crisis.

What are other causes of high blood pressure?

A variety of factors can cause high blood pressure. For instance, you may be at risk for high blood pressure if it runs in your family.

In addition to stress, other risk factors of high blood pressure include:

  • Lack of exercise.
  • A diet high in salt and sodium.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • The risk for high blood pressure increases as you grow older.
  • Genetics.
  • Low potassium levels.
  • Certain health conditions. Diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea are some of the many conditions linked to high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy.

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What are good ways to reduce stress?

Chronic stress can often reduce your quality of life. It can make you feel worried and anxious constantly. It can interfere with your sleep and contribute to insomnia. It can even take the pleasure out of otherwise fun activities.

In addition to reducing blood pressure, having a low stress level can make you feel happier and more relaxed. Managing stress also reduces your risk for a variety of other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and mood disorders.

Here are things you can do to reduce and manage your stress.

Improve your diet

Healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can widen your blood vessels and help you relax. For instance, fish and walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart and can naturally reduce blood pressure.

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Don’t smoke

Smoking can damage the walls of your blood vessels to cause high blood pressure. Nicotine is also a stimulant—meaning it can raise your heart rate and worsen symptoms of stress. If you currently smoke, ask your doctor about treatments that can help you quit. Nicotine patches and talk therapy are examples of effective treatments that can help you stop smoking.

Drink less alcohol

Alcohol causes the blood vessels to narrow and constrict, which can lead to high blood pressure. Drinking alcohol may help you feel less stressed in the short term. But in the long term, alcohol can worsen stress by interfering with your sleep and causing problems with your career, relationships, and health. Try to avoid alcohol, especially if you are already stressed.

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Exercise regularly

Exercise is one of the easiest and most effective ways to manage stress and high blood pressure. It widens your blood vessels, regulates your hormones, and improves your mood. It also releases feel-good hormones called endorphins that naturally reduce pain. Try to exercise on most days of the week, even if you only take a quick, 10-minute stroll around the neighborhood.

Establish good sleep habits

Like stress, sleep deprivation also increases your cortisol levels. Lack of sleep puts physical stress on your body and increases your blood pressure at the same time. To combat poor sleep, establish a healthy bedtime routine. Go to bed early and avoid screens. Listen to soothing music or read a book to help you relax and fall asleep.

When to see a doctor

It’s time to see your doctor if you are having problems managing stress on your own. If your stress is too overwhelming, your doctor can talk to you about treatments and therapies that can help you get it under control.

It’s also time to see your doctor if you have confirmed that your blood pressure is high. Blood pressure can often be managed with a combination of medications and healthy lifestyle changes.

Request an appointment with Healthcare Associates of Texas today if you have high blood pressure. We can perform an evaluation and discuss all your available treatment options.

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References

  1. American Heart Association. 2021. “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings.” American Heart Association. American Heart Association. 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings.
  2. 2020. “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Risk Factors.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/risk_factors.htm.

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