How Does Stress Affect Blood Pressure?

Many people believe that stress and high blood pressure are directly linked. However, this is a popular myth since blood pressure is not ‘nervous tension.’ Actually, it is more correct to say that stress can only cause temporary rises in blood pressure. Stress does not cause hypertension. Once the stressful situation has passed, blood pressure will return to whatever is ‘normal’ for that individual. And, conversely, if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension), this does not mean you are stressed or overly anxious. You could be perfectly calm and still have hypertension. On the other hand, it is true that chronic stress can have an impact on hypertension. However, we really do not know why or how much stress actually contributes to hypertension.

Just because stress is not directly related to hypertension does not mean you can dismiss the importance of reducing stress if you are suffering from diagnosed hypertension. Particularly if your blood pressure is difficult to control, you should pay attention to the chronic stressors in your life and try to reduce them.

Even simple changes in your daily schedule can have a positive impact on your health and well-being. For example, adding a daily walk in the fresh air in the morning before work or in the evening after work can dissipate built up stress. New research indicates that taking up yoga can lower your blood pressure. Exercise in general can help reduce stress and manage weight, and being active will certainly help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, in fact here are some ways to quickly and easily incorporate more exercise into your day

  • Walk or bicycle rather than take the car to work
  • Take the stairs rather than the escalator or elevator • If you travel by bus get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • Cycle short journeys rather than take the car
  • Walk a bit further every day with the dog
  • Get out of the office at lunchtime and have a walk

 

By far the most effective way to reduce blood pressure AND manage chronic stress is breathing. This is so easy. Five to 10 minutes of measured slow breaths where you breathe in to a shorter count and breathe out with pursed lips to a longer count is guaranteed to take you out of sympathetic distress and engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Add music to anything you do and double your benefit. This is a good time for a Relaxation Break.

Stress Solutions

by Susan Andrews, PhD

The Psychology Times, July 2015

Dr. Susan Andrews, Clinical Neuropsychologist, is currently Clinical Assistant Professor, LSU Health Sciences Center, Department of Medicine and Psychiatry, engaged in a Phase III study on HBOT and Persistent PostConcussion Syndrome. In addition to private clinical practice, Dr. Andrews is an award-winning author of Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms (2013).

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