Here’s How Stress Affects Your Blood Pressure

Scientists are still studying the link between stress and high blood pressure, or hypertension. However, ongoing research suggests that large spikes in blood pressure caused by stress harm blood vessels and increase your risk of complications such as heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure is one of the best known predictors for heart disease. It’s also one of the easiest to manage through lifestyle changes and medications. As an advocate of prevention, Dr. Ulin Sargeant explains how chronic stress can worsen your blood pressure and what you can do to avoid complications.

Stress leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms 

Sometimes chronic stress increases your blood pressure indirectly. For example, some people cope with stress by eating processed and sugary foods, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. Doing so introduces other risk factors known to cause hypertension. 

A study that looked at the lifestyle impact of stress on blood pressure found that participants who used food, alcohol, and smoking as a way to relieve stress had higher blood pressure. On the other hand, participants who chose healthier coping mechanisms, such as exercise and relaxation techniques, had lower blood pressure.

Stress triggers adrenaline and cortisol

When you feel stressed, your body produces adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that raise your blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate. 

Short-term stress can be beneficial — adrenaline and cortisol boost your energy levels and help your brain use the glucose in your bloodstream more effectively. However, your body isn’t designed to function in emergency mode for extended periods. Chronic stress causes your blood pressure and pulse to stay elevated long enough to damage your blood vessels. 

Stress contributes to poor sleep

A good night’s sleep has a big impact on your overall health, and people who suffer from chronic stress are more likely to sleep less and experience insomnia. Research shows that an episode of insomnia causes a spike in blood pressure that carries on through the next day. Also, sleep pattern disturbances increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.

Reduce stress to avoid complications 

Cutting down on your caffeine intake, keeping a journal, or simply setting aside time to relax each day can have a positive impact on your health. Mindful practices such as meditation also help increase your resilience to stress. 

Elevated blood pressure often goes unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms, and you may benefit from regular testing if you suffer from chronic stress. If tests reveal that you have hypertension, Dr. Sargeant can help you lower your blood pressure through a combination of lifestyle changes, stress management, and, if necessary, medication.

If you believe chronic stress could be contributing to your hypertension, contact Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care in Duarte, California, today to schedule an appointment. Dr. Ulin offers personalized advice to help you tackle your health concerns.

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