Did you know? How your body reacts to stress may affect your blood pressure. Any time your “fight or flight” response kicks in, your blood pressure spikes, and even low-level stress that lasts over long periods of time can contribute to higher blood pressure and related health issues.
At Macomb Medical Clinic in Sterling Heights, Michigan, our team of family doctors treats patients with hypertension every day. We see firsthand how stress can exacerbate symptoms, leading to chronic health issues.
Here’s how stress contributes to high blood pressure, and what you can do to lower stress levels in your day-to-day life.
The connection between stress and high blood pressure
When you are in a stressful situation, your body produces a hormonal response. In preparation for conflict, your heart starts to beat more quickly, and your blood vessels narrow, causing blood pressure to increase.
Normally, your blood pressure returns to normal after the perceived danger is past, but, for some people, the stress response stays in an “on” position. If your blood pressure is chronically high, you are at higher risk for heart attack or stroke, and if you have another chronic condition like diabetes, it can become worse.
Additional contributors to high blood pressure
Certain behaviors and factors linked to higher blood pressure include:
- Nicotine use
- Alcohol consumption
- Unhealthy foods
- Lack of sleep
- Anxiety and/or depression
While these factors don’t individually cause high blood pressure, they have each been shown to be contributors to chronic hypertension. And when combined with stress, your problem goes from bad to worse!
Lowering your stress levels — and blood pressure
You can help lower your blood pressure in many holistic ways, decreasing stress being one of them. Harvard University of Health recommends the following for stress reduction:
- Sleep more and better. Not getting enough sleep can bomb your feelings of wellbeing, leading to irritability and stress. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day can relax your body into a routine.
- Consciously relax. You can use techniques like deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga to help you relax your body and mind.
- Socialize. Isolation can make stress worse, so consider finding a comfortable way to socialize by joining a club or taking a class.
- Practice self-care. Find ways to take care of yourself, even if it’s just getting half an hour to do whatever you want every day, or making time for a relaxing bath or massage.
- Delegate. You don’t have to do everything yourself, so find ways to get help at home and at work to lighten your load
Are you worried about your blood pressure levels? Call our office at 586-315-2393 to schedule an appointment with one of our family physicians today.