Blood Pressure Changes And Anxiety
Anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight system a system designed to keep you safe from harm when no danger is present. The fight or flight system causes a number of physical changes that would help you respond to a predator or threat if one was present, but can be distressing when they occur without that danger.
Different types of anxiety can affect your blood pressure in different ways. To understand how anxiety can impact blood pressure, first you must gain a basic understanding of blood pressure and how it fluctuates.
Finally, it is always important to remember that blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day due to exertion, diet, hydration, and more. Blood pressure is not constant even if you do not have any anxiety. So “high blood pressure” may not be high blood pressure at all, and may instead be a reading during one of these fluctuations.
Effects Of Stress On The Body
Cortisol, insulin, catecholamines, and even thyroid hormones help to ramp up your bodys ability to act in stressful situations.
If your stress becomes constant, your body does not have time to rebound from the stress overload.
This is called chronic stress, and it can lead to myriad health problems:
- High blood pressure
- Depression or anxiety
If you have chronic stress, you may have symptoms that extend just beyond mentally feeling overwhelmed.
You might also be more forgetful, have headaches, or a loss of focus.
You may be more tired than usual, feel nausea, have trouble sleeping, or deal with more aches and pains.
How To Get Started With Deep Breathing
One beginner method is called equal breathing, based on inhaling through the nose for a count of four, and exhaling for a count of four. With time, this cycle can be prolonged to counts of eight in, eight out. Another method, called guided visualization, encourages users to hold on to mental images of a peaceful place as they breathe deeply.
There is only one non-drug treatment approved for hypertension by the FDA a device called RESPeRATE. It uses musical tones to guide deep abdominal breathing. Its goal is to reduce the number of breaths to under 10 per minute, and to prolong each exhalation. Clinical trials have shown that daily RESPeRATE use lowered blood pressure, sometimes as much as a blood pressure pill would have. This lowering effect also lasted long after each session. Instead of a RESPeRATE device, you can always use one of several free mobile apps that teach deep breathing.
Deep breathing shouldnt replace blood pressure medications, but it can be a helpful supplement. Its advantages are obvious: it is free, portable, and healthful. The only cost is time ideally, 10 to 15 minutes daily. Adding guided breathing to your routine is a great way to lower your blood pressure while helping you handle the ever-growing stresses of modern life.
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Tips For Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes
If you suffer with high blood pressure, its easy to feel intimidated by the changes you need to make in order to improve your health. While some people may only need to work on one or two areas to reduce their blood pressuregetting more exercise or quitting smoking, for examplemost of us find that we need to improve our habits in at least 3 or 4 areas. But even if you smoke, drink heavily, are overweight, stressed out, sedentary, and eat nothing but junk and processed food, that doesnt mean you have to tackle everything all at once. Making lots of different lifestyle changes at the same time can be overwhelming. And when we feel overwhelmed, its easy to opt for doing nothing rather than doing something.
Start gradually and make one or two changes to begin with. Once those changes have become habit, you can tackle one or two more, and so on. For example, you may decide to start by giving up smokingand adopting some relaxation techniques to help with the stress of quittingthen move on to losing weight or improving your diet.
Lose the all or nothing thinking. Doing something, no matter how small, is always better than doing nothing. If youre eating healthy food during the week, for example, then resorting to takeouts at the weekends, your blood pressure and overall health will still be in better shape than if you were eating takeout every day.
Things To Avoid When Stress Strikes
It can be hard to deal with stressful situations. We want the stress to go away, so we might look for a “quick fix” to feel better in the moment, such as:
- Cigarettes or other tobacco products
Unfortunately, many of these solutions harm your health or make stress worse. Talk to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional if you find yourself frequently turning to unhealthy fixes to help deal with stress.
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Avoid Tobacco Products And Secondhand Smoke
Any amount and any form of tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels. This increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Tobacco products and secondhand smoke can also stop your blood pressure medicine from working well.
If you smoke, try to quit. Ask your family, friends, or health care provider for help. For more information about quitting smoking, visit www.quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233.
How Can You Get Your Blood Pressure Under Control
If stress and anxiety are whats causing your blood pressure fluctuations, its natural to think that anxiety medication is the best solution. While some research indicates that its useful in certain instances, its not considered a first line treatment. Instead, try these proven prescription and lifestyle changes to get things back under control.
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Stress Raises Blood Pressure Risks Of Heart Attack And Stroke Study Says
A new study shows stress can lead to high blood pressure.
The information may sound familiar, but most previous studies have focused on the effect of stress on existing hypertension.
The new study from Kyoto University in Japan suggests stress can cause the condition over time.
It can also increase your risk for stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
Scientists say the reverse is also true. Reducing stress can lower the same risk factors.
According to the researchers, the key is to recognize stressful situations early and begin reducing them with breathing and relaxation techniques before they produce excess cortisol in your system.
Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body deal with stressful situations, but long-term increased levels can cause the problems outlined by the scientists.
The study was published in Circulation, a scientific journal of the American Heart Association.
Everyday Ways To Reduce Stress
Everyone has it within their power to reduce stress, but it takes commitment. Stress, as pointed out by health experts, is sneaky. Most of us dont realize we suffer from stress until it manifests itself through health issues with the body or brain.
The best strategy is to stay ahead of stress, not wait for it to present itself with symptoms. The following ideas on reducing stress are all things you can incorporate into your daily lives without a visit to the doctor, medication or taking more trips to the beach .
Get The Right Amount of Sleep
Its amazing how life improves when you consistently get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. The first step is to set a schedule so that you go to bed and get up at about the same time. Other tips include making the bed comfortable, arranging pillows so you have a good sleep position throughout the night, and keeping the bedroom dark and quiet .
Learn How To Relax
Your tense and you might not even know it . One way to reduce the tension and stress is to learn relaxation techniques. They can be as simple as taking time each day to simply listen to music as you sit and quietly practice deep breathing. Or you can try incorporating meditation and yoga into your life.
Address Bad Habits
Dont Hold It In
Learn to Say No
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Avoid Too Much Alcohol
Too much alcohol consumed at one time can cause a sudden spike in your blood pressure. The calories and sugar contained in alcoholic drinks can also contribute to increased body fat and weight gain. People who take medication for high blood pressure should be especially vigilant, as alcohol can also reduce its effectiveness.
The NHS advises both men and women not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis. If you drink as much as 14 units a week, it’s best to spread this evenly over 3 or more days. A unit of alcohol is about half a pint of beer . A small glass of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.
Blood Pressure Changes Can Cause Anxiety
It’s also possible for blood pressure to cause anxiety. Both low blood pressure and high blood pressure can cause changes in your heartbeat, dizziness and lightheadedness, and more. These symptoms can themselves create anxiety or trigger panic attacks, and that in turn may increase your anxiety. However, not everyone who suffers from high blood pressure experiences anxiety.
Is it Dangerous When Anxiety Affects Blood Pressure?
The greatest concern is whether or not your blood pressure changes are dangerous. The answer is a bit complicated. On the most basic level, affected blood pressure is not dangerous. Remember, random fluctuations happen all the time with no ill effects. Blood pressure is a symptom of an issue whether it’s anxiety or heart disease and not a cause of heart problems.
Your heart rate and your blood pressure also may get a break with anxiety. The body is remarkable and adjusts to chronic conditions. Some people that experience anxiety for hours on end actually find that their blood pressure adjusts to that anxiety, which ultimately means that it goes back to a base level. High blood pressure changes tend to be fairly short term, and are most common in the early stages of anxiety or during panic attacks.
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Gaps In Preventive Care
When annual physicals, or optional surgeries are postponed to avoid exposure to the virus, its more likely that blood pressure that was once in check could start to spiral out of control. Dr. Ngo notes: Visit tracking showed a large drop in office visits during the peak of the pandemic and a corresponding bump in the percentage of patients with uncontrolled blood pressure. Along with the increase in stressful situations and uncertainties, blood pressure is spiking higher than usual during this period. Even self monitoring can be difficult for those who do not have home blood pressure monitors, as most pharmacies and retail stores have restricted access to these services during the pandemic.
Stress Is Bad News For Blood Pressure
Stress is unavoidable. Your body is designed to handle stressful situations by releasing chemicals that help your body and mind cope. This is designed as a temporary adaptive strategy to get you through stressful situations.
Trouble starts when stress is ongoing. The chemicals meant to help you cope with temporary stress can wreak havoc on your body when those chemicals remain elevated over time. Take cortisol, for example. This stress hormone is helpful in controlled spikes, and it aids physiological adaptation to stress.
Too much cortisol for too long is another story. Prolonged elevation of cortisol causes lasting increases in blood pressure and damages your body, causing ongoing inflammation that damages blood vessels.
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Chronic Stress And Blood Pressure
How chronic stress affects blood pressure is less known, says Dr. Laffin. While recent data suggests that our bodies might tend to release more stress hormones with prolonged stress, its also about how stress affects our lifestyle habits and choices that can lead to higher blood pressure.
People who experience chronic stress tend to sleep more poorly, not exercise as much and make bad dietary choices, he says. This leads to higher blood pressure and increased risk of stroke or other adverse cardiovascular events.
How To Lower Your Stress To Reduce Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic and other trusted organizations and institutions list stress management as one of the key lifestyle changes for reducing blood pressure. There are many ways that you can lower stress to benefit your physical and mental health.
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Lifestyle Steps To Lower Your High Blood Pressure
Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Categories
High blood pressure is when the blood circulating in your body puts too much pressure on the walls of your arteries. This causes damage to those arteries and over time increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Another term for high blood pressure is hypertension.
Making healthy lifestyle choices can help lower your blood pressure and improve your health. Below is a list of some of the most important changes you can make in your day-to-day life to help lower your blood pressure.
Know What Brings You Pleasure And Find Ways To Enjoy The Experience
Perhaps you enjoy volunteer opportunities or cooking your favorite foods. By taking time not only to participate in these activities but to intentionally enjoy them, you can build a satisfying life rather than hurry through your relaxing activities at a stressful pace.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
Last Reviewed: Oct 31, 2016
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The Importance Of Stress Management
In todays fast-paced world filled with increasing demands, stress management is a life skill and a lifesaver. Its also important to note that while the link between stress and high blood pressure is still being studied, stress is known to contribute to risk factors like a poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption.
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These simple changes can help you keep high blood pressure at bay
Around a third of UK adults have high blood pressure, and many may not even be aware of it. The condition is usually silent, without symptoms, but if left untreated it could lead to serious complications.
Some of the resulting health problems of high blood pressure, or hypertension, can include heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss. It is very important, therefore, to detect high blood pressure and take steps to keep it under control.
Sometimes, healthy lifestyle changes are enough to lower your blood pressure levels. In other cases, you may need to combine them with medications prescribed by your doctor.
But in either case, there simple changes to your diet and everyday life, proven by research, you can make to keep your arteries healthy. We have consulted Penn Medicine and Jonhs Hopkins Medicine for the latest advice from the experts.
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Try Meditation Or Deep Breathing
While these two behaviors could also fall under stress reduction techniques, meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.
Both meditation and deep breathing may activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate, and lowering blood pressure.
Theres quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure .
Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.
In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat .
Try guided meditation or deep breathing. Heres a video to get you started.
Bottom line: Both meditation and deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Responding To Low Blood Pressure
Everyone’s blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day. At any moment, it may be lower or higher than recommended based on what a person has eaten, how much water they have ingested, whether they are sitting or standing, or even how they cross their legs.
That low or high blood pressure alone is usually not a concern unless a person has a heart problem, as the body is expected to go through these different fluctuations.
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When Does Acute Stress Become Chronic Stress
Because we all handle stress in different ways, it can be hard to look for signs of acute stress turning into chronic stress. If stressors are lasting for weeks on end, then they risk turning into chronic stressors that need to be addressed, Dr. Laffin notes.
It really can come down to how someone perceives stress, he continues. Two people can be in the exact same situation and it can be much more stressful to one than the other. Some people just deal better with stress and have healthier coping strategies or support systems.
Blood Pressure Is Linked To Other Medical Issues
High blood pressure can be the first indication of a serious underlying condition. When a patient comes in with high blood pressure, doctors will check their urine and kidney function do an electrocardiogram to check the size of the heart and look for lung changes.
Stress on the blood vessels makes people with hypertension more prone to heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and aneurysms. Correspondingly, chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, sleep apnea and high cholesterol increase the risk for developing high blood pressure.
In some women, pregnancy can contribute to high blood pressure, leading to preeclampsia. Postpartum blood pressure typically goes back to normal levels within six weeks. However, some women who have high blood pressure during more than one pregnancy may be more likely to develop high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases as they age.
Some of these medical issues can also cause spikes in high blood pressure .
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