Stress and high blood pressure: how are they related?

Stress and high blood pressure are more closely related than you might think. We show you what your connection is and what to do about it.

Last update: January 08, 2022

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently around 1.28 billion adults between the ages of 30 and 79 with high blood pressure. The data is worrying, and it overlaps with others such as psychological disorders. Today we are talking about the relationship between stress and high blood pressure and why you should pay attention to it.

According to data from the American Institute of Stress (AIS), up to 77% of people live with some degree of stress in their day to day. It is a natural response to cope with problems, although unfortunately we depend a lot on it or in any case we have become accustomed to its symptoms. You will learn why you should be interested in this connection and what to do about it.

The relationship between stress and high blood pressure

The nervous system has a direct action on the cardiovascular system, so stressful situations can easily affect blood pressure.

As the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates, stress develops due to an interaction between internal and external phenomena that cause an alteration in almost all the body’s systems. Stress is a very complex phenomenon, but in very simple terms it is a set of physiological and psychological reactions that the body manifests when faced with a challenge.

These reactions lead to two possibilities: positive stress and negative stress. In both cases it is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system and some of the most frequent reactions are the following:

  • Peripheral vasoconstriction.
  • Slowing down of intestinal motility
  • Massive release into the bloodstream of cortisol, enkephalin, adrenaline, and norepinephrine.
  • Increased blood glucose.
  • Increased defense capacity of the immune system.
  • Acceleration of clotting factors (blood thickens).

All of the above is developed as a defense mechanism for the body to better respond to a situation that endangers its integrity. Stress is not just an emotional discomfortRather, it has practical consequences for almost every system in your body.

The American Heart Association reminds us that stress speeds up the heart rate and constricts the blood vessels. All this in order to bring more blood to the central part of the body instead of the extremities. As a consequence, there is an increase in blood pressure due to stress..

This phenomenon is temporary, so it lasts as long as other stress symptoms do. This is why the researchers point out that stress does not directly cause hypertension, but it can have an effect on its development.

This is because, as the evidence indicates, recovery to the pre-stress level takes longer and with greater cardiovascular effects than was imagined a few decades ago. Due to this, patients diagnosed with hypertension, risk groups and, in general, all people should control these episodes to keep their blood pressure at healthy values.

Work stress and hypertension

As is well known, there are different types of stress. For a few decades the label has become popular work stress to allude to the episodes that are triggered in a work context. Researchers keep warning that job stress is a major factor in the development of high blood pressure.

Strenuous hours, pressure to meet goals, fear of staff cuts and the need to put in more money are just some of the conditions that can cause stress at work. Burn worker syndrome, also known as burnout, is a potential risk for subjects diagnosed with hypertension. The WHO has included it in ICD-11.

7 ways to reduce stress to control high blood pressure

Finding a way to manage stress is up to the individual, so identifying the root cause is critical.

You have already learned why stress causes high blood pressure and how these episodes can be counterproductive for patients with hypertension. We cannot say goodbye without first collecting a series of practical tips to reduce its incidence in your day-to-day life.

We reiterate again that there is no evidence that stress causes high blood pressure (the disease), but it is one of many factors that affects the process (along with genetic predisposition, weight, habits like smoking, and so on). In the spirit of leading a healthier lifestyle, and taking the suggestions from Harvard Health Publishing, we invite you to practice the following:

  • Improve the organization of your time: so that you do not leave important or difficult things for the last place, manage your leisure moments proportionally and avoid accumulating tasks that will translate into an increase in your stress.
  • Get enough rest: on average it is recommended to sleep eight hours a day without interruptions, not distributed in cycles of two or three breaks. Sleeping will help your mind and body regain the energy they need to cope with day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Expand your social relationships: so that your leisure moments are not spent alone, but in the company of friends, family or colleagues. Going to the movies, playing sports together or attending meetings is very important for your mental health and for strengthening your social relationships.
  • Practice relationship techniques: such as yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. Include in your routine methods that give you peace of mind, so that you can appeal to them as an escape when stress is lurking.
  • Solve stressful problems: the best response to problems that cause you stress is to face them, not run from them. You will see that you can almost always solve them without major obstacles, since many times we consider a problem more complicated than it really is.
  • Take care of yourself: In every way, stress is often a consequence of neglecting ourselves. Implement a healthy diet, do sports, create a space in your agenda for things you like, reward yourself and do not let yourself be consumed only by work or responsibilities.
  • Seek help: If, despite doing all of the above, you cannot control stress, then do not hesitate to seek professional help. As we have already stipulated, this reaction causes physiological alterations that affect your health, so you should never underestimate its effects in the medium and long term.

We also encourage you to consult with a cardiologist to assess the possible effects that stress has had or is having on your cardiovascular health. Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing sodium intake are other basic tips for managing hypertension.

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