Blood Pressure and StressHigh Blood Pressure and Stress Levels
The everyday stress of modern life and work can definitely increase your blood pressure levels by accelerating your heart rate. But this is a temporary, non permanent raising of blood pressure levels used quite normally by the human body to prepare you to respond to ‘threats’. This is often called the fight-or-flight response. However, it’s not necessarily correct to say that everyday stress causes permanently high blood pressure (hypertension).
Stress can cause temporary high blood pressure level, but these high levels will revert to normal once the source of your stress is removed and you are able to relax.
Research has shown no evidence that regular short term increases in blood pressure, that are due to stress, do any permanent damage to your blood vessels or internal organs. Long term stress that causes high blood pressure levels for sustained periods of time is a much more serious thing than short term stress. Long term stress is a major cause of hypertension, and hypertension can and does lead to some very serious health problems.
A large number of things have been found to increase blood pressure – everything from hearing a baby cry to watching sport on TV. But none of these things alone will cause long term high blood pressure. It’s only when your body is subjected to continuously raised blood pressure levels over long periods of time that there’s any danger.
Scientific research has also shown that long term stress does play a role in the increased risk of hypertension, but numerous other factors need also be considered, among them obesity, exercise, smoking, and psychological concerns like depression and anxiety levels. This all becomes a cycle when you consider that excess stress itself leads to many of the other contributing factor of hypertension. Highly stressed people often overeat, take little exercise and smoke more.
Long Term Stress can cause High Blood Pressure
Regular stress suffered of extended periods of time can cause hypertension through the repeated raising of blood pressure levels as well as by stimulation of the nervous system to produce large amounts of vasoconstricting (artery tightening) hormones that increase blood pressure. Factors affecting blood pressure through long term stress include job strain, race, social environment, and emotional distress.
When one or more risk factors for high blood pressure are coupled together with other stress producing factors, the effect on blood pressure is multiplied. Overall, studies show that short term stress does not directly cause hypertension, but can have an effect on its development. Also, some of the side effects of stress, like overeating and lack of exercise can contribute to a person developing hypertension.
Which ever way you look at it, long term stress is not good for the human body and should be avoided and controlled wherever possible.
How Can You Cope With Stress and What can you do to Relieve Stress?
To start to cope with stress and then reduce your stress levels, firstly you need to identify the things in your life that are causing you stress (see our treatments for Stress page for more info). After you’ve identified the main causes of stress in your life you can then start to learn proven techniques for reducing stress. Some of these techniques you can learn and apply for yourself, while other more advanced techniques may require the guidance of a trained therapist.
Here are some tips to help reduce stress and high blood pressure:
Eat and drink sensibly
Abusing alcohol and food may seem to reduce stress in the short term, but it actually adds to it greatly in the long term.
You do not have to meet others’ expectations or demands. It’s OK to say “no.”
Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
Fact – Smoking does not relax the mind or body. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on even more stress and high blood pressure symptoms.
Choose non-competitive exercise and set achievable goals. Try to find a form of exercise you enjoy – swimming, cycling, walking, running etc. These will get you out of the house and away from any causes of ‘home’ stress. Getting outdoors and meeting new people will add to the de-stressing effect.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphin’s (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.)
Relax Every Day
Find some time for yourself and just chill-out and relax. Deeply relaxing is a very underused way of balancing a stressful life.
Take control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control. Try not to ‘over think’ about things that you have no real control over.
Reduce the Causes of Stress
Many people find life is filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management involves asking for help when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself and most importantly – taking time out for yourself.
Set Yourself Realistic Goals
Don’t set yourself goal that you cannot achieve. Be realistic with you expectations of yourself.
Get enough Rest
Even with proper diet and exercise, you can’t fight stress effectively without rest. You need time to recover from exercise and stressful events. The time you spend resting should be long enough to relax your mind as well as your body. Some people find that taking a nap in the middle of the day helps them reduce stress.
Visit the Stress Treatment & Relief Page for ideas to reduce your stress levels and overcome symptoms of stress.