Stress can take a toll on your emotional and mental well-being, but did you know that it can also affect your physical health as well? Your blood pressure, in particular, can be affected by stress, so if you have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it, it’s important for you to maintain a low stress level. Although stress has not been cited as a definite risk factor for high blood pressure, the connection between the two should not be ignored.
The Body Under Stress
When a stressful situation arises, so do the negative emotions of fear, anger, doubt and depression. But this is just the surface reaction to stress. Your body actually reacts to stress just as much as your mind; it’s just that you aren’t aware of it. Here is a step-by-step look at how your body deals with stress:
- Your body releases hormones – Cortisol and adrenaline are released into the blood stream. These hormones trigger your body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response to stress.
- Your heart rate increases – Your heart starts to beat faster and your blood vessels constrict. This allows the blood to rush away from the extremities and into the core of the body.
How Stress Affects Blood Pressure
This physical reaction to stress is what causes an increase in blood pressure. However, this reaction is only temporary and will end once the stress goes away. But does stress cause chronic blood pressure? That seems to be the million-dollar question. Researchers aren’t sure of the connection between stress and chronic blood pressure, but they do suspect that it is there. Here’s why:
- Those short-term spikes could add up over time – That fight-or-flight response is hardwired into people for those times when they face really harrowing situations. The problem is that these days, everything stresses us out, so we’re constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Because of this, your blood vessels, heart and kidneys can end up damaged from those short-term spikes in blood pressure. Over time, that damage can equal the damage done from chronic high blood pressure.
- How we deal with stress may be a factor – Oftentimes, when stress becomes too unbearable, we tend to indulge in negative or self-destructive behaviors as a way to deal with it. This includes smoking, drinking, overeating, not sleeping and neglecting to take important medications. These behaviors can increase the risk for high blood pressure as well as other health problems.
Of course, these are only hypotheses, and not proof of the connection between stress and chronic high blood pressure. But since stress has definitely been connected to high blood pressure in the short-term, it is important that you keep your stress level to a minimum, especially if you already have blood pressure problems.
How To Reduce Stress And Blood Pressure
So many of the day-to-day problems at work and at home cause us to feel doubt, anxiety and worrisome about the future. It can be tough to rid your mind of those thoughts and feelings, but it’s important to do so for your physical well-being. If you’re going through a stressful time in your life, here are some tips to help ease your mind and body:
- Don’t rush – Give yourself plenty of time to achieve your goals during the day. You may want to plan out your week ahead of time or make lists of what you need to accomplish tomorrow. As you finish what you need to do, check it off of the list. Sometimes, just seeing what you’ve already done can help lessen your feelings of stress.
- Don’t say “yes” to everything – Spreading yourself too thin can cause undue amounts of stress, especially if you can’t deliver on your promises. This is also where time management and planning ahead can help you out. If you know that you already have too many things lined up for the week, it’ll be easier for you to say “no.”
- Practice relaxation or breathing techniques – If you’re constantly stressed out, you may want to use a relaxation or breathing technique to help relieve your stress. The technique can be yoga, Tai Chi, visualizing yourself on a tropical island, deep breathing or just spending some time listening to music. Whatever relaxes you and soothes your mind is what you should do when stress arises.
When you are stressed out, just remember that it’s not just your mind that’s freaking out – your body is experiencing the same reaction. Although you may not be aware of it, your body reacts to stress by raising your blood pressure, and the more it does so, the more you may be at risk of developing chronic high blood pressure. By keeping your stress levels down, you’re keeping both your mind and your body happy.