Stress and high blood pressure
Stress and high blood pressure
Stress and high blood pressure can go hand-in-hand. It is well known that stress can contribute to a rising of blood pressure. Stress is a risk factor for hypertension or high blood pressure (PubMed Health, 2015). Although hypertension or high blood pressure can be caused by numerous factors, there is no doubting that the effects of stress on a person’s blood pressure have become an increasingly important and relevant subject of research and study. High blood pressure is also known to be detrimental for internal organs (Mannix, 2018).
Psychological Stress and Blood Pressure:
Studies conducted on students reveal that their heart rate and blood pressure are higher during exam days Dogan, Nalcaci, Dogan, Badnjevic & Kurtovic (2017). The autonomic assessment is done using a computerized analysis of a person’s cardiovascular variability through an electrocardiogram or ECG. It includes analyzing the students’ responses to the psychological questionnaires given to them, along with the laboratory analysis of their saliva (Duback, 2015).
The levels of cytokines released and hormone cortisol being produced by the body are also measured through their saliva samples. The amount of proteins produced by the immune system when the body is in a stressful situation is also measured and included in the autonomic assessment.
The results reveal that the students’ heart rate and blood pressure are higher during their exam days than during vacation days. This convincingly shows that psychological stress is a large factor of both heart and respiratory health.
Persistent Stress Can Be Dangerous:
Stress can make a person’s blood pressure temporarily soar above the normal levels. When the nervous system is stimulated the production of vasoconstrictor hormones will rise thereby resulting in increased blood pressure (Healthline, n.d.) Causes of stress and the degree of reaction to it will vary from person to person.
As with all stress-related responses the temporary increase of blood pressure is not usually a problem. However, health issues occur when stress hormones are not dissipated and remain in the system due to chronic stress. This causes the person’s resting pulse rate and blood pressure to be persistently and dangerously elevated.
How One’s Attitude towards Stress Can Lead to Hypertension:
Even if stress itself is not the direct cause of a person’s high blood pressure, the associated attitudes and behaviors of a person relating to that stress can contribute to the development of hypertension. For example, a common coping mechanism for many people is the habit of eating comfort foods in order to cope with stress.
These comfort foods are not nutritious but are usually high in sugar, sodium and additives that further increase the risk of hypertension and other health risks. Stress may lead to emotional eating (Yau & Potenza, 2014). It also changes a person’s food preferences. This is why stressed individuals have increased tendencies to choose sugar laden food and drinks along with processed foods that are high in sodium content.
When Stress Leads to Persistent Food Cravings:
The corticotrophin-releasing hormone produced by the brain’s hypothalamus during stress is known to suppress appetite temporarily. In times of stress this hormone will signal the adrenal glands to produce more epinephrine which revs up the body’s fight or flight response, which includes putting craving for food on hold.
If stress becomes persistent the adrenal glands will start producing a different hormone called cortisol that increases an individual’s appetite. Normally, cortisol levels go down once a stressful event is gone. However, if stress becomes chronic the body’s fight or flight response will also refuse to turn off resulting in persistent food cravings.
As you can see, prolonged stress can cause all sorts of problems. If you are concerned, a good starting point may be your GP. For more specialised help, a highly recommended website is Your Health In Mind. This site is written in plain English and is specifically created for the every-day person in our community.
Dogan S, Nalcaci N, Dogan S, Badnjevic A, Kurtovic A, et al. (2017) Changes in Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Measurement Undergraduate Students During Exam Period. J Biom Biostat 8: 347. doi: 10.4172/2155-6180.1000347
Duback, V. (2015). Measuring the stress level of students preceding an exam and post animal interaction through the use of salivary cortisol. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from https://digitalcommons.salemstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1045&context=honors_theses
Healthline, (n.d.). Why does vascoconstriction happen? Retrieved November 1, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/health/vasoconstriction
Mannix, L. (2018). Chronic stress could rewire your brain to keep blood pressure high. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/chronic-stress-could-rewire-your-brain-to-keep-blood-pressure-high-20180125-p4yyvl.html
PubMed Health. (2015). High blood pressure: Can stress management methods lower blood pressure? Retrieved 30 Dec, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072418/
Yau, Y. H. C. & Potenza, M.N. (2014). Stress and eating behaviors. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]