Hypertension and Your Mental Health: You Are Not Alone on This Journey

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Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be tough. Living with a lifelong condition like Hypertension can often feel like a lonely journey; the constant worry about your blood sugar levels, medicines, lifestyle changes and the dreaded BP complications can be incredibly stressful and isolating. Can all this worry and stress affect your mental health? How does chronic stress affect your blood pressure? In this article, we discuss the effects of hypertension on your mental health, and also what you can do to lower stress and preserve your mental health.


How Does Hypertension Affect Your Mental Health?

When diagnosed with a chronic condition like hypertension, most people report feeling worried and distressed. The idea of having to take medication for the foreseeable future, possibly having to give up their favourite foods, exercising regularly, frequently having to undergo an array of tests and doctor’s appointments, etc. can feel overwhelming to people who are already dealing with the pressures of modern life. 

This, along with worry about developing complications associated with high blood pressure like heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney damage, etc. can worsen stress.

Stress and the associated hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can cause blood pressure elevation, both in the short-term and long-term. In the case of acute(short-term) stress, your heart rate increases and your blood vessels constrict, both of which can cause a spike in your blood pressure.

It is chronic (long-term) stress that can be considered the main culprit in hypertension. People who experience chronic stress (for more than a month) can resort to unhealthy coping strategies like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, binge eating, not exercising, etc. all of which are behavioural risk factors for hypertension.

Hypertension can also affect your mental health physiologically. The chronic inflammation in your body, caused by high blood pressure, can lead to the release of chemicals like tumour necrosis factor (TNF) α and interleukins, which negatively impact your mood and may lead to anxiety and depression.

Can Poor Mental Health Worsen Your Blood Pressure Control?

Living with mental health disorder can have a significant effect on your lifestyle as well as physical health. Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can often cause a loss of interest in daily tasks and a lack of physical activity. It can also lead to unhealthy food choices and bad coping mechanisms. All of this can have a negative impact on your health.

When it comes to poor mental health in hypertension patients, it can have a severe impact on blood pressure. An unhealthy mental state can hinder blood pressure management in the following ways.

  • Noncompliance: Anxiety and depression may not allow you to make the necessary lifestyle changes or follow your prescribed medication course, both of which are required to manage hypertension.
  • Insomnia: Stress, anxiety and depression can disrupt your sleep cycle and cause insomnia. Studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to or worsen hypertension.
  • Bad dietary choices: Mental health disorders can lead to a lack of positive feelings and experiences. Thus, individuals with these conditions often resort to binge eating or emotional eating. This can affect blood pressure control in BP patients.
  • Elevated stress: Untreated hypertension increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol, in turn, elevates your blood pressure, resulting in a vicious cycle.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms: Individuals affected by stress, anxiety or depression are more likely to adopt unhealthy habits to cope with these conditions. These could include smoking, alcohol consumption, substance abuse, etc., which can further worsen hypertension.

What Can You Do to Better Handle Mental Health and Blood Pressure?

Adopting the following measures into your daily routine can help you handle stress in a better way, while also lowering your blood pressure:

Exercise regularly

Exercise is a key part of hypertension management as research has shown that 30 minutes of daily exercise is just as effective as medication when it comes to lowering blood pressure. Regular aerobic exercise can strengthen your heart, which then requires less effort to pump blood throughout your body. This leads to reduced blood pressure.

Exercise is also a great way to lower the levels of stress hormones in your body. When you are physically active, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that lift your mood and help you relax. Thus, exercise can help you relieve stress and anxiety, while also improving your mood.

Practise deep breathing techniques

The stress hormone adrenaline can cause your heart to beat faster and increase your respiratory rate. The best way to counteract this is to practise deep breathing exercises, which can help you calm down and lower your stress and anxiety levels. The reduction in adrenaline and cortisol levels helps you better control your blood pressure.

Deep breathing exercises can also improve blood circulation, while helping you combat inflammation and oxidative stress, which are known to worsen high blood pressure complications.

Get plenty of sleep

Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is perhaps the easiest way to lower your blood pressure, while also improving your mood and relieving stress. 

Getting sufficient sleep every night is key to lowering cortisol levels, managing your weight, and keeping you motivated and energised, all of which are crucial for managing hypertension and stress.

Find other activities that relax you

Any activity or hobby that helps you relax can aid in stress management. Make more time in your schedule to indulge in activities that improve your mood. Relaxing by participating in your favourite hobbies can help improve your general outlook towards life, with the added benefit of lowering stress levels and contributing to improved management of hypertension. 

Hobbies and recreational activities that promote physical fitness like hiking, cycling, swimming, dancing, sports, etc. have the added benefit of contributing to exercise and thus to blood pressure control.

Build a support system

Forming closer bonds with your family, friends, colleagues, etc. can go a long way in lowering stress and bettering your mental health. Discussing your condition and your experiences in managing it with your family or friends can help you feel less lonely in your journey to better health. 

Positive social interactions have also been shown to improve mood and decrease your chances of developing anxiety disorders and depression. Socialising is also an effective stress-buster, which can have positive effects on your blood pressure control.

Are There any Mental Health Resources for BP Patients and Their Caregivers?

If you or your loved ones need support to better deal with the mental health ramifications of hypertension, your foremost resource would be your primary health care team. Discuss your apprehensions and mental state with your physician, who will be able to guide you on how to handle stress in a productive way.

You can also consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist who is experienced in helping chronic disease patients. Additionally, you can also join local or online support groups for BP patients and their caregivers. 

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Being diagnosed with a chronic condition like hypertension, along with its management, can cause a lot of stress and worry.
  • In BP patients, unresolved stress and chronic inflammation can lead to elevated blood pressure.
  • Poor mental health can cause you to neglect your health and the activities required to manage high blood pressure.
  • Mental health issues can also cause you to experience insomnia and resort to unhealthy lifestyle habits in order to cope, which can worsen your blood pressure control.
  • You can manage your hypertension and stress effectively by exercising regularly, practising deep breathing techniques, getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, making more time for your hobbies, and being more social.
  • You can also seek mental health support from your primary care doctor or a mental health professional who is experienced in hypertension patient care.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat high blood pressure problems together.

Friendly Asked Questions

Is there a connection between high blood pressure and depression?

There is no known direct connection between high blood pressure and depression. However, BP patients are more likely to experience depression when compared to normal individuals. Researchers suggest that this may be due to increased stress hormone levels or the chemicals released due to hypertension-related chronic inflammation.

What psychological changes can cause hypertension?

Chronic or long-term stress and the resulting changes in behaviour (dietary habits, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, etc.) can lead to the development of hypertension.

Does anxiety raise blood pressure?

When you experience anxiety, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can increase your heart rate, constrict your blood vessels and quicken your breathing. This can lead to a temporary but drastic increase in your blood pressure.

Can lowering stress lower your blood pressure?

Yes, managing stress in a healthy way can help lower the levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) in your body, which can help lower your blood pressure.