Stress and blood pressure


The association between stress and high blood pressure is well-recognised but not so well understood.

We simply don't know yet if frequent stress can lead to permanent increases in blood pressure. We are aware however that stressful situations can cause blood pressure to go up temporarily as a natural response to increased stress hormones in the blood such as adrenaline and cortisol.

We also know that highly-stressed people can respond to their pressures by smoking and drinking more, exercising less and eating unhealthily - all of which can lead to longer-term increases in blood pressure.

There's little doubt however that one way or another stress can push your blood pressure up.

Stress is part of life

Stress is a natural emotional and physical response to any situation where you feel you need to either cope or respond more than usual. Itʼs there to enable us to respond successfully to whatever life throws at us and without it weʼd live passive, non-reactive lives and weʼd be entirely dysfunctional.

But if you feel stressed too often or for too long, your health can suffer. The symptoms of excessive stress are extremely wide-ranging and they affect us in different ways but there is no question that how we respond to pressure significantly impacts our thoughts, feelings and our behaviours and of course our physiology.

Managing stress comes in three stages:

1. Understanding what the sources of pressure in your life are.

2. Identifying ways to control or avoid the sources of pressure.

3. Positively managing how you respond to pressure - this includes living a healthy lifestyle, positively managing your perspective on pressures and seeking help and support.

Although it may not feel like it at the time, positively managing the pressure you're under is almost always possible - no matter how overwhelmed you feel.

Strategies to manage stress

  • Assert yourself - stand calmly behind your own beliefs but make sure you respect other points of view too.
  • Take up non-competitive exercise - try aerobic activities to make you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Be sure to spend time relaxing every day - some people find it helps to take an afternoon nap or practise relaxation techniques.
  • Understand you can only control what you can and let go of things you cannot control including other people's behaviour.
  • Reduce known stress triggers - including too many demands.
  • Develop effective time-management skills.
  • Live by your values - the more you do that reflects your essential nature, the better you will feel.
  • Make sure your goals and expectations are realistic.
  • Remind yourself of the things that you are good at and develop a healthy sense of self-esteem.
  • Get sufficient rest - long enough to make sure your mind relaxes as well as your body.

If stress control is proving difficult you should discuss your situation with your doctor who will be able to offer extra advice and support as well as counselling, stress therapy and where appropriate medication.