Almost every doctor’s appointment begins with a checkup of your vitals, the signs your body uses to indicate the functionality of the most important, life-sustaining operations. Included in this check-up should be a test of your blood pressure. While most people don’t know exactly what blood pressure does, generally we know that we want to avoid having high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension is the most common cardiovascular disease, meaning it affects the heart and the circulatory system. It is the leading cause of strokes and contributes to the causation of heart attacks. You likely have hypertension if you, as a healthy adult, have blood pressure readings (taken more than once) of about 130/80 or higher. Most important to remember is that, frequently, elevated blood pressure is “silent” meaning that even though someone may feel fine, they can still have high blood pressure. It is of the utmost importance to make sure to get annual checkups to catch any problems as soon as possible.
Interestingly enough, there have been many that show a link between hypertension and stress. While mental stress often has emotional and psychological affects, it is also a detriment to your physical health. Now, it isn’t apt to say that stress causes high blood pressure by itself; however, mental stress has an impact on the inner workings of the human body, and can lead to repeated blood pressure elevations. This can ultimately lead to a hypertension diagnosis. Therefore, it is imperative that we acknowledge the stressors in our lives so we can treat prolonged stress related issues.
People get stressed out for a variety of reasons, and a little anxiety associated with daily living is to be expected. However, there are usually signs our body gives out when the pressure becomes overwhelming.
Physical signs of stress can include
- General aches and pains
- Muscle tension
- Racing heart
- Tight chest
- Sweaty palms
- Weight gain/loss
- Sleeping problems
Mental signs of stress can include
- Constant worrying
- Obsessive/intrusive thoughts
- Difficulty making decisions
- Loss of periods of time
Emotional signs of stress can include
- Mood swings
- Loss of enjoyment/interest
Behavioral signs of stress can include
- Compulsive eating
- Impulsive actions
- Social withdraw
- Explosive actions/anger
As stated above, the causes for stress and resultant issues with one’s physical health can vary from person to person. By listening to our bodies and recognizing the common symptoms of stress, we can make changes to our lifestyle to better manage the physical aspects of stress, therefore dealing with at least one potential cause of hypertension.
Preventing/Managing High Blood Pressure
Eating healthy and avoiding alcohol is one way to help manage stress. Sodium is one of the worst offenders in terms of raising blood pressure, so foods that are heavy in salt, such as deli meat, pickles, and many frozen foods should be avoided.
If you’re a smoker, quitting cigarettes and other sources of nicotine is one way to give your blood pressure a break. Nicotine is a player in many hypertension cases. It can lead to raised blood pressure, thickened arteries, and over-zealous blood clotting. Additionally, nicotine acts as a stimulant, and that can cause stress-like symptoms.
Exercise is a tried and true method of both relieving some aspects of stress and blood pressure issues. When you work out, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good. Additionally, exercise promotes a solid, strong heartbeat, which puts less strain on it as it regulates the blood flow of the body.
Lastly, reaching out for help and speaking to someone when things get to be too much is probably the most important part of managing stress. Whether it be friends, family, or a professional, putting yourself in a position to receive help can often be the hardest, yet most vital, step in dealing with health issues related to stress.
Healthpointe is here to help with both your stress management and hypertension related issues. Our doctors specialize in all aspects of mental and physical health, and are ready to serve you! To speak to a doctor, make an appointment here or call us now at 888-719-8448.
*This post has been medically reviewed by Dr. Roman Shulze.