Can stress lead to high blood pressure? (and what can be done about it?)
Many different types of stress can affect your blood pressure.
Even a small stress for a short period of time, like being forced to hurry mental arithmetic, can cause an increase in blood pressure that lasts for a few minutes. More severe stressful events, like experiencing a terrorist event, can cause an increase in blood pressure that lasts for a few hours or a few days.
Repeated stressful events or ongoing stress, like an unmanageable workload or persistent worries about family members, can lead to long-term increases in blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension is a problem because it increases the workload on your heart and damages the lining of blood vessels, so they don’t function as well as they should. Hypertension can lead to narrowing of your arteries, heart attack and heart failure.
Stress can be a physical thing as well as a mental one. The body’s reactions to psychological stress are driven by the same hormonal and neurological systems that help our bodies deal with disease, illness and injury. Long-term physical stress (e.g. overtraining, chronic illness) can also lead to high blood pressure.
There are plenty of things you can do to reduce stress. Getting enough good quality sleep and eating well are good places to start. Meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, yoga, exercise, increasing your social contact and avoiding stressful situations can all help. In some cases, you might need medication to get your blood pressure under control.
If stress is causing your blood pressure to be high, it’s best to be under the care of a doctor who can help look at everything that’s contributing and keep an eye out for other health problems that might arise.