When your body is placed under a stressful situation, your body produces a surge of hormones. These hormones cause your blood pressure to rise, your heart beat faster, and your blood vessels start to narrow. At times, this situational spike in blood pressure can result in long-term high blood pressure and potentially lead to heart attacks, and/or strokes.
While stress and anxiety can cause your blood pressure to elevate, lifestyle factors can have a significant impact as well. Habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and eating unhealthy foods can all contribute to high blood pressure.
In order to understand how stress directly affects your blood pressure, it is important to know about the two categories of stress, acute stress and chronic stress. While both of these can cause your blood pressure to rise, they both have a different long-term effect on your body.
Acute stress is temporary stress caused by a specific event or situation. In cases like these, once the situation has passed or been resolved, your blood pressure will typically return to normal. It is common for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day, but our bodies are highly skilled at managing it. Whereas, chronic stress can be a bit more difficult at administrating.
As we discussed before, blood pressure can elevate due to unhealthy lifestyle habits and this is most commonly associated with chronic stress. When you are chronically stressed, you may not get enough sleep, exercise much, or are more prone to making unhealthy choices overall. All of these factors can increase your risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular concerns.
Sometimes, two people can be doing through the exact same situation, yet one person can perceive the situation as more stressful than the other. This can make it difficult to identify if your acute stress is turning into chronic stress because we all handle stress very differently. However, it is safe to assume that if your stress has been ongoing for more than a few weeks, it can be classified as chronic stress. If not addressed early on, this can result in weight gain or difficulty losing weight, high blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and more.
While there are medications that can help you “manage” your stress and high blood pressure, this is not the best route to take in most cases. The best way to address this and avoid unwanted health conditions is to adopt healthy stress management techniques. Here are a few ways you can lower your stress levels and reduce anxiety, which in turn lowers your blood pressure.
Exercise! Studies show over and over again the amazing benefits of a consistent workout routine. Exercising regularly can be a great outlet for stress and also have a positive impact on your heart health.
Sleep! Becoming more mindful of the quality and quantity of your sleep can improve your overall health and stabilize your blood pressure levels. Getting about 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night should be your priority.
Evaluate your stressors! Identifying the source of your stress can help you make necessary changes to avoid high stress and blood pressure. At times, this can be easier said than done, especially when your main stressor may be work or family. In cases such as these, considering therapy may be beneficial.
Eat a heart-healthy diet! Did you know foods high in salt and unhealthy fats can increase your blood pressure even before adding stress and anxiety into the mix? It is best to avoid these kinds of foods as much as possible and focus more on foods high in antioxidants like broccoli, berries, spinach, and carrots to name a few.
Meditation! There are many different forms of meditation that can help you manage both acute and chronic stress. Studies have shown that meditation can improve your outlook on life and reduce stress and anxiety.