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Stress and High Blood Pressure- Hypertension Which Number is Affected

Updated on April 6, 2012

What is Blood Pressure

So your worried about your Blood Pressure being high or your Doctor has diagnosed you as having High Blood Pressure. To fully understand how stress can affect your blood pressure, let’s begin with the basics.

Blood pressures have a top number and a lower number. The top number is Systolic.

This number will always be higher than the lower number. Systolic measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.

The bottom or lower number is Diastolic.

It measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

Ideal Blood Pressure

So what is the ideal Blood Pressure? Your 'normal' Blood Pressure or 'ideal' should be approximately 120/80. A couple numbers either way is within normal. However, there are 2 stages of Hypertension (high blood pressure) and you need to be aware of those numbers.

  • Stage 1 Hypertension- The top number (Systolic) is in the range of 140-159. The bottom number(diastolic)  is 90-99.
  • Stage 2 Hypertension- The top number (Systolic) is 160 or more and the bottom number is 100 or more.

How Stress Raises Blood Pressure

Stress and the way your body reacts to it can be harmful. When you are angry, panicked, or in a rage, just to name a few, your body produces a surge of hormones that elevate renin, a kidney enzyme, that raises blood pressure. It is a temporary rise, but the cause of these spikes in blood pressure can be something to worry about.

If the cause of your stress is depression, you may choose to handle the stress and feelings with alcohol or overeating. These two factors can cause high blood pressure among other health problems. Insomnia is a cause of Hypertension as well, and is also related with high levels of stress. And as anyone who has experienced insomnia knows, no sleep means mood swings, drowsiness, confusion and headaches.

Stress if not handled properly can become chronic. Meaning it is long-term. Having stress on a daily basis can have long-term affects on your body. Have you ever noticed that when you are high stressed you feel sick? That is because the bodies immune system becomes compromised when you are overwhelmed for a long period of time. But that is not all.

Not dealing with stress can cause more stress!

How? Not only making your body more susceptible to illness but it can open your mind to anxiety and further cognitive problems. Being high stressed and having chronic stress can contribute to heart disease, put you at risk of stroke, and contribute to infertility.

The behaviors associated to stress that may cause long-term high blood pressure needs to be prevented.

Managing Stress

Managing your stress sounds easier said than done, right? Wrong!

Managing your stress can be learned by dedication and a willingness to do so. I don't believe that anyone enjoys feeling anxious and overwhelmed, so don't let those feelings divert you from controlling your feelings and managing your lifestyle.

  • Exercise- Exercise is the one thing to better yourself and your blood pressure. Exercise not only makes you feel better mentally but overtime it will help your blood pressure lower.
  • Slow breathing and meditative practices such as yoga and tai chi have been documented as reducing stress levels.
  • If you feel a stressful situation arising, separate yourself from it. Take a time out to take deep breaths, count to ten and reappoach
  • Ask for help. A support system is so important when going through stressful events. Find family or friends to talk with or seek a therapist to work out the problems at hand.
  • Work Less- If your working more than 40 hours a week, take a breather! Dedication is a great characteristic to have but do you dedicate your life? Work less if possible or take breaks to breathe. A short ten minute walk or a 5 minute break to close your eyes and take deep breathes can be beneficial.

Diet To Lower High Blood Pressure

Your diet is essential to lowering your Blood Pressure.

  1. Reduce your salt intake- a high salt intake is known to contribute to high blood pressure
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation
  3. Increase potassium- Potassium acts as a diuretic to excrete sodium from your body. Potassium high foods include spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, orange juice, potatoes, yogurt and bananas.
  4. Eat more fruits
  5. Eat more vegetables
  6. Eat low-fat dairy products
  7. Eat Dark Chocolate- Dark varieties contain flavanols that make blood vessels more elastic.Try to find dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. But don't overdo it. One piece a day is enough.

  8. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and by magnifying the effects of stress, so try to drink Decaf or Tea instead. If not possible, limit your caffeine intake.

Medication

Your Doctor may prescribe medications as an aid in your stress and to help lower your Blood Pressure. Although we all want to avoid being put on medications and it may be of inconvenience to you, think of the possible consequences of a possible heart attack or stroke, trust me the medication is best.

Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are helpful if you are experiencing depression or panick episodes. Consult with your Doctor to find the best one for your situation. Medications can be temporary and are not a sign of failure. We all need help sometimes and this may be what you need.

If you are experiencing high blood pressure your Doctor may prescribe medications to lower it. Again, this is not a life sentence of medications. With a healthy lifestyle and lowered stress, medications may be a short term solution.

**As with the use of any medication, consult your Doctor if any side effects are of concern or if taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety your symptoms worsen or thoughts of suicide/hopelessness occur.    

 

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

If you are experiencing High Blood Pressure it is important to monitor it at home.

  • Take your blood pressure everyday.
  • It helps to remember by taking the reading at the same time daily. Such as before breakfast.
  • Keep a daily log of your readings to compare from day to day.
  • Bring your log to your Doctor appointments so he/she can see a comparison and adjust medication or treatments as necessary.

Above all else, DON'T Smoke or Quit smoking- nicotine causes your blood vessels to constrict and your heart to beat faster, which temporarily raises your blood pressure.

Your blood pressure can be controlled by managing your stress levels and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. With or without medications, your high blood pressure needs your help! Your actions and reactions determine your overall success. 

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