While stressful situations can cause blood pressure to rise temporarily, it’s still not known whether stress alone leads to long term hypertension.

Spikes of high readings do not necessarily add up to equal high blood pressure in the long run. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that by performing stress-busting activities such as exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, the improvement in health has a long term positive impact on blood pressure.

The link between stress and blood pressure is puzzling

When we’re stressed, our bodies produce a sudden rush of hormones which bring about a rise in blood pressure because they cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow. However there’s no absolute proof that stress is by itself a cause of blood pressure over the longer term. It might be the case that lifestyle factors linked to stress such as overeating, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and sleeping badly are the real culprits.
The factors that commonly trigger stress include health conditions such as anxiety, depression and isolation, and it’s these that may be linked to cardiovascular problems. Alternatively it could simply be that the hormones which are produced in stressful situations damage the arteries leading to a greater risk of heart disease. It could also be the case that people who suffer from health problems including depression act self-destructively, for example refusing to take medications for their high blood pressure or cardiovascular conditions.

Regular blood pressure spikes increase long term risk of hypertension

Even though blood pressure returns to normal after a stress related spike, the more temporary spikes experienced, the higher the risk of developing long term hypertension. That’s thought to be because each time blood pressure is raised, the damage to blood vessels, kidneys and the heart increases. Furthermore, if a person’s reaction to stress is to indulge in smoking, drinking excessively or eating unhealthily, the risk of hypertension goes up, as does the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

      Ways to reduce stress include:

    • Managing your work/life schedule better by making to-do lists, and eliminating unimportant activities that take up too much time.
    • Learn deep-breathing techniques. Making a conscious decision to relax and slowing down your breathing can have a big impact on your stress levels.
    • Do more exercise. Physical activity is an excellent stress-buster. If you’re new to exercise or you haven’t been physical for some time it’s best to consult your doctor before beginning a new regime.
    • Take up yoga and meditation, since these have been shown to not only help you relax, but studies indicate they could reduce blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg or more over time.
    • Sleep well, because lack of sleep can be incredibly stressing.

It’s important to find the right mixture of techniques that work for you when it comes to stress. Even though there doesn’t seem to be a direct link between stress and blood pressure, de-stressing your life clearly has a big positive impact in terms of lowering hypertension.

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