No matter who you are, where you live, or how old you are, stress is a fact of life. And how you manage that stress can make all the difference in the world. Is your gut reaction to a stressful situation to immediately grab that pint of ice cream, have a few drinks at the local bar, or go for a workout at the gym?
You no doubt know that stress can lead to sleepless nights, anxiety, or making poor lifestyle choices, but did you know that there’s a connection between stress and high blood pressure?
In this blog, our skilled team of health professionals at Formé Medical Center in White Plains, New York, gives you the lowdown on the relationship between stress management and healthy blood pressure — information that can literally save your life.
Fight or flight response and your blood pressure
You’ve probably heard about fight or flight, the body’s natural response to a situation it perceives to be life threatening. This survival response is hard-wired in us and was super important to humans when they were hunters and gatherers and didn’t know where their next meal was coming from or if they would become some ferocious animal’s next meal.
Although life is less volatile these days, the fight or flight response still kicks in when something traumatic happens or everyday life gets a little overwhelming. So what does this have to do with your blood pressure?
When you get stressed out, there’s actually a chemical response that happens. Specifically, your body releases stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are designed to prepare your body for the fight or flight response.
Two important things happen as a result — your heart beats faster and your blood vessels get narrower to drive more blood to your core, so that you can react.
Acute and chronic stress impacts blood pressure
Stressful situations can be short-term or ongoing. Situational stress is short-term and revolves around a particular incident. A road-rage incident or an argument with your spouse are examples of short-term stress, sometimes referred to as acute stress.
However, chronic stress is ongoing, and is characterized by an overwhelming sense of feeling pressured about life in general. Perhaps you’re working in a dead-end job, your relationships are turbulent, or you can’t seem to ever pay your bills on time. These types of issues may cause continuous stress that lasts weeks, months, or even years.
Despite the life cycle of the stress, both types can affect your blood pressure. In the case of acute stress, once the issue that triggered your stress is resolved, your blood pressure usually returns to where it was before the stressful situation.
Stress triggers other high blood pressure risk factors
Researchers are studying the long-term effects of chronic stress on blood pressure. However, with chronic stress, the known impacts are more about the implications of living with stress day in and day out, which dramatically increases your risks of developing high blood pressure.
When life seems overwhelming all the time, chances are you’ll go for the greasy hamburger and salty fries, and not the salad. You’ll also be more prone to drinking excessively and smoking. All of these things put you at a higher risk for high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, the consequences don’t stop there. Living with stress on an ongoing basis not only may lead to damaged blood vessels and high blood pressure, but also to other life-threatening conditions like heart attack or stroke.
The good news is that you can get your blood pressure back on track by learning how to manage your stress as well as incorporate lifestyle changes.
Here at Formé Medical Center, our staff cardiologist develops a treatment plan to address the underlying cause of your high blood pressure as well as any unhealthy lifestyle habits that are contributing to your high blood pressure. If these initial strategies aren’t enough to restore a healthy blood pressure reading, he may prescribe medication.
If you have concerns about stress and your blood pressure, contact Formé Medical Center to schedule a consultation. Call our office or request an appointment online today.