Stress|Blood Pressure|Risk of Stroke

Stress Balls can help provide temporary relief of stress.
Stress Balls can help provide temporary relief of stress. | Source

Stress

You don’t need to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to suffer from the symptoms of stress and high blood pressure.

It can affect anyone, at any age.

Regrettably, even in the 21st century, there is still a stigma attached to people who experience stress and mental health problems.

It is not surprising, therefore, that many of us are reluctant to admit that we even have a problem. We will not admit that we are struggling to cope for fear of being branded a failure.

But the worse thing you could possibly do, is to ignore the signs and symptoms that you are not coping with your stress.

These signs may not be as obvious as those irritating red and yellow warning lights that appear on your car from time to time, but they are there nonetheless.

The sooner you face up to your stress, the better.

Chronic stress leads to high blood pressure (hypertension) and potentially the risk of suffering a stroke. Strokes can cause serious disability and even death.

The expression ‘bursting a blood vessel,’ which is commonly used to describe an irate individual, did not arise by accident!

Symptoms Of Stress

Stress affects different people in different ways and we all have varying degrees of tolerance to stressful situations.

However, stress tends to ‘creep up’ on you and, before you know it, the pressure is so immense that you can be feeling totally overwhelmed and unable to cope.

Some of the more common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression / Black Moods
  • Irritability / Bad Temper
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness / Confusion / Lack of Concentration / Clumsiness
  • Obsessive / Irrational Thoughts
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Unsocial Behaviour
  • Consuming More Alcohol
  • Smoking More
  • Eating More / Less Than Usual
  • Talking Faster

You may also experience physical symptoms such as:

  • Headaches / Migraine
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Chest Pains / Breathlessness
  • Random Muscle Pain
  • Stomach / Bowel Changes
  • Increased Bladder Frequency
  • Lack of Libido

Source

The Stress Vicious Circle

Left untreated, chronic stress can lead to further medical problems such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Peptic Ulcers
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Hypertension carries its own serious complications such as risks of:

  • Stroke
  • Heart Attack
  • Aneurysm

As being ill causes stress, the process is repeated, over and over. Life may even begin to feel like a never ending ride on a carousel.

Normal and High Blood Pressure Ranges

Category
Blood Pressure Range
Normal
Systolic less than 120 AND Diastolic less than 80
Prehypertension
Systolic 120 - 139 OR Diastolic 80 - 89
High Blood Pressure Stage 1
Systolic 140–159 OR Diastolic 90–99
High Blood Pressure Stage 2
Systolic 160 or higher OR Diastolic 100 or higher
Source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Blood Pressure Monitoring

If you are feeling stressed, it is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly.

Two readings are taken when your blood pressure is measured. These are the systolic and diastolic pressures.

Systolic pressure is the pressure of blood against the artery walls when your heart is beating.

Diastolic pressure is the pressure between heartbeats.

I tend to think of this as: pressure when the heart is beating (systolic) and pressure when the heart is not beating (diastolic).

Blood pressure readings are always given as two numbers. The top figure is the systolic pressure and the bottom figure is the diastolic pressure.

So, if your reading was 120/80, normally said as 120 over 80, you would have a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80.

Beware White Coat Syndrome!

An important point to mention here is that you do need several measurements to determine what your true blood pressure reading is and also to gauge what is ‘normal’ for you.

Aside from varying throughout the day, blood pressure readings can sometimes register as being artificially high.

This is because some people can become anxious about seeing a doctor or being in a medical environment. This anxiety can temporarily raise their blood pressure.

This is a recognised phenomenon termed ‘white coat syndrome,’ or ‘white coat hypertension.’

Regular monitoring of your blood pressure at home can help overcome this problem.

Automatic Blood Pressure Monitors are relatively cheap, easy to use and an effective means of regularly monitoring your blood pressure.

Source

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a specific branch of the brain is cut off.

As serious as the consequences can be, prompt recognition of the signs of a stroke can help prevent permanent brain damage.

The common stroke symptoms can be easily recalled with the acronym F-A-S-T.

Face-Arms-Speech-Time (F.A.S.T.)

  • Face: Is the face drooping on one side? Is the patient able to smile? Is their mouth or eye drooping?
  • Arms: Is the patient able to lift both arms up vertically? Can they keep them there or is one arm weak or numb?
  • Speech: Is their speech coherent or is it garbled, confused or slurred? Is the patient able to speak, despite being conscious?
  • Time: Don’t delay, time is critical. If these symptoms are present, you need to call the emergency services and get medical assistance immediately!

There are also other, less common symptoms of stroke which include sudden dizzinesss, loss of vision/blurred vision and generalised weakness.

Time is of the essence with a suspected stroke victim and, if in doubt, always seek immediate medical assistance.

What Is The Best Way To Reduce High Blood Pressure?

  • Reduce salt intake.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Reduce stress levels.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption.
  • All of the above!
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Managing Stress And Reducing The Risk Of Stroke

There are some very simple and relatively basic steps that you can take to counteract the effects of stress, reduce blood pressure and minimize the risk of stroke. Here are the top 8...

1. Eat A Healthy Diet

Eat a balanced, low fat diet with plenty of fibre, fruit and vegetables. This will help to reduce cholesterol levels as well as lowering blood pressure. Also, if you are stressed, then you should cut back on salt as this increases blood pressure

2. Check Your BMI

If your body mass index (BMI) is over 30 then you are classed as clinically obese. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to suffer from high blood pressure and have an increased risk of stroke. Furthermore, people who carry excess body fat around their waist, commonly referred to as ‘apple shaped,’ have a higher risk of stroke.

Check Your BMI

3. Take Regular Exercise

Just 30 minutes of regular exercise a day can help minimize the effects of stress, reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of stroke. Exercise is also one of the easiest ways to help maintain a normal healthy weight. Moderate walking, especially in the fresh air, is a great tonic. Alternatively, a home gym workout can be just as effective. A punch bag workout can be a great stress reliever and it doesn’t take much room to accommodate at home.

4. Practise Relaxation Techniques

There are many ways that you can diffuse stress and tension by practising some deep breathing techniques or meditating. You can also join a yoga class or relax with an aromatherapy massage.

5. Reduce Caffeine Intake

Excess caffeine intake can increase blood pressure. So cut down on the number of cups of coffee and other caffeine rich drinks, such as cola, to less than 4 a day. Increase your water consumption to compensate and keep your body properly hydrated.

6. Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Many people turn to alcohol as a means of reducing their stress levels. The danger is that, before too long, this drinking pattern become the norm, with devastating consequences.

7. Maintain A Stress Diary

This can be a useful tool in determining what triggers your stress and what effect it has on you. Identifying the causes of stress is the first step in finding suitable solutions.

8. Quit Smoking

Recommending you quit smoking, whilst under extreme pressure, may seem like something of an oxymoron! However, smokers are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke as in comparison to non-smokers. This is because smoking causes a build up of plaque in the artery walls. This obstruction leads to hypertension and the development of blood clots. This then increases the potential for strokes to occur.

If In Doubt Always Seek Medical Assistance

If you feel that your symptoms are not improving or are becoming worse then you should always seek medical intervention. Your health practitioner may prescribe medication to help you in the short term and/or refer you to a counsellor or support group.

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Disclaimer

Please note that this hub is not intended for use as a source of professional, psychological or medical advice but is provided solely for informational purposes.

Readers are advised to seek the services of competent professionals in these fields.

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Your Comments Are Most Welcome! 2 comments

AliceFSpencer profile image

AliceFSpencer 4 years ago from Texas

This was a very well put together hub, I do hate to give in to stress but I know when I am I drink too much caffeine and it makes me feel worse. Enjoyed voted up !


Mellonyy profile image

Mellonyy 3 years ago

Very useful hub! Concentrate on one task at a time - the best remedy to reduce stress! Thanks for SHARING!

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