Understanding How Chronic Stress Can Cause Hypertension


Cold sweats and palpitations are the pesky symptoms that many of you may associate with stressful situations. In the short term, it may just be a normal, albeit annoying, response to a challenging situation.

But continued bouts of stress can cause high blood pressure, and eventually, hypertension.

And before you start stressing about your stress levels, know that there are things that you can start doing today, to prevent these long term complications.

Here’s more on how stress affects your blood pressure, the holistic approach for lowering stress levels, and the habits that you need to start forming today for this. 

How Exactly Does Chronic Stress Affect Your Blood Pressure?

Everyone experiences stress of some form during their life. Small instances of stress are normal for everyone, but leading a perpetually stressful life can start an onslaught of problems that can eventually lead to hypertension, and even worsen heart disease risk.
During stressful situations, your body will produce a whole slew of hormones, such as adrenaline, to trigger your flight or fight response. This is the body’s automatic response to fear, and it can make your heart beat faster, and cause your blood pressure to rise. This temporary increase in stress can help you complete your task faster.  But this response was meant for handling one-off physical dangers, rather than the constant psychological stressors that you live with.

In the short term, stress induces symptoms like sleep issues, racing heart (palpitations), headaches, dizziness, and a gradual change in appetite. But these symptoms can escalate and become chronic, and eventually affect your other organ systems. Chronic stress manifests as:

  • Sleep problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression, anxiety 
  • Stomach issues
  • Headaches and body pains

When your body experiences these symptoms without any treatment, the condition can eventually lead to higher blood pressure. Since high BP doesn’t show symptoms earlier on, you might miss out on getting the help that you need in time. 

During stressful times, the increase in blood pressure may be drastic. But it quickly returns to normal when the stressor goes away. But frequent, temporary spikes in blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart and even kidneys, like long term hypertension.

Stress and Hypertension

How You React To Chronic Stress Decides Your Hypertension Risk

Nobody is ever formally taught how to handle stress. You’re thrown into stressful situations and you find your methods to cope with them. While many turn to exercise or music, there are some unhealthy responses like smoking and binge eating, that are also common. 

According to Mayoclinic, your reaction to stress in unhealthy ways is what can pose the worst risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. Common coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking, drugs, binge eating, and even negative self-talk often do more harm than good in the long term. They create new kinds of stressors and lead to chronic stress. 

This is why cultivating better coping mechanisms like physical activity, meditation or even a new hobby can help in addressing everyday stress, and prevent long term complications.

The Best Habits To Manage Chronic Stress

There are some activities that you may know are good for you, and yet you don’t practice regularly, because it may be a little hard. For example, the benefits of physical exercise range from stress management to weight loss and age reversal and yet, some people refuse to do it.
In cases of chronic stress and preventing hypertension, adopting certain positive habits into your routine can change your life for the better.
To manage stress and prevent its complications, you can:

  • Follow a simple schedule
    Committing to too many things is a problem that can cause daily stress. Make sure that you don’t overexert yourself with time-consuming, but pointless activities. Rather go after a priority list of 4-5 items that are the most important.
  • Practice breathing techniques
    Practising intentional, deep breaths can help you in relaxing and staying stress-free.
  • Get a good workout
    This is the most natural way to handle stress. Just make sure to try out different forms of exercise to know what works for you and what you enjoy.
  • Practice yoga and mediation
    They are mind-body experiences that can help strengthen your body and let go of your worries.
  • Start doing new things
    Finding interesting hobbies to take up such as learning a new language, gardening, singing, dancing or even getting a pet can help in focussing your nervous energy and reducing stress.
  • Get enough sleep every day
    If you’re not getting a steady 6-8 hours of sleep regularly, that could lead to long term problems.
  • Change your approach
    While there are physical things that you can do, having a problem-solver attitude to your life can help. Address the stress and emotions that you’re feeling and figure out how you can solve them.

The key is to find the approaches and coping mechanisms that work for you and incorporate them effectively into your routine. Regular practice of these coping mechanisms can help in reducing short term stress, preventing complications and ensuring long term wellbeing.

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