Stress is a normal part of life. In fact, your body is designed to produce hormones to help you fight or manage stress. While stress is normal and your body expects it, too much stress is bad for your health and may lead to chronic health issues like hypertension.
At Macomb Medical Center, we see firsthand the effects of chronic stress people’s bodies and their health, and we want you to know both how it may lead to hypertension and the steps you can take to better manage your stress and improve your health.
The natural reaction to stress
Any extra demands placed on your body, whether physical, emotional, or mental, may lead to a stress reaction. The primary purpose of the stress reaction is protective: It’s a means of kicking your body into high gear due to concerns of danger, whether the danger is real or imagined.
When you perceive danger, your body releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Also referred to as the fight or flight hormones, these hormones increase your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your senses. These physiological changes make you faster, stronger, and more focused so you can fight or run from the perceived danger.
Once you’re out of danger, your heart rate, blood pressure, and senses return to normal. In emergency situations, your stress response can save your life.
Unfortunately, work deadlines, mounting bills, and family demands can also trigger your body’s stress response, which can lead to a constant, chronic state of stress that can affect every system in your body. This type of situation may contribute to health issues like hypertension.
Chronic stress and hypertension
A June 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis study published in Neurological Research investigated the association between psychosocial stress and hypertension. While the researchers found a connection between stress and hypertension, they suggested more research is needed to further define the connection.
While it’s not crystal clear how stress can lead to hypertension, it’s possible that your coping mechanisms for managing your stress may be part of the problem. When dealing with chronic stress, you may turn to unhealthy habits that affect blood pressure, such as smoking or alcohol.
You may also turn to unhealthy habits with food, which can lead to weight gain and increase your risk of hypertension.
Take control of your stress and your health
Stress is a physiological response your body uses to protect you from life-threatening situations. While stress can be good (even when your life isn’t in danger — giving you the motivation to finish your work presentation, for example), how you cope with your stress can make a difference in how it affects your health.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to relieve your stress and lower your blood pressure. It can also improve your mood and support efforts toward getting to a healthier weight.
We also recommend you eat a healthy diet filled with foods that provide your body with nutrients that help you better cope with stress, including fatty fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Finding tools that help you relax can also reduce stress and the stress reaction. Exercise may support these relaxation efforts, but you may also find relief with meditation or reading a book.
To release more of those feel-good hormones to minimize stress, it’s also important to feel connected to others. To lower your stress and improve your blood pressure, create pockets of time in your schedule to reconnect with friends and family.
Hypertension can develop without causing symptoms and can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Taking control of your health and your stress can improve your blood pressure and lower your risk of more serious health issues.
For expert care from a team that can help you manage all of your health needs, call Macomb Medical Clinic today. You can also send the team a message here on their website anytime.