When you experience stress, your blood pressure goes up. Your heart beats faster and your blood vessels narrow, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
Thankfully, these effects don’t last very long, and soon your blood pressure will lower. But can these episodes have a long-term impact on your health and put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke?
The answer is not so cut and dry.
It’s true that stress can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. In stressful situations, your body sends out hormones that have the effects mentioned above.
But what if you’re constantly feeling stress or anxiety, or react to stress in unhealthy ways? In that perspective, stress can have a long-term detrimental effect on blood pressure.
Coping with stress by smoking, drinking heavily, or eating unhealthy foods can all contribute to high blood pressure. If these behaviors are regularly occurring, the results can be detrimental.
Long and frequent bouts of intense stress can also over-activate the immune system, leading to inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a known contributor to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Stress’s influence on blood pressure and heart health, therefore, is largely controllable. The factors you can manage include your reactions to stressful situations and your ability to mitigate stress. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Simplify your schedule: If you’ve got too much to do and it’s stressing you out, take a look at what you can cut. Things that aren’t important can be cut or moved around to help get things off of your plate.
- Shift your perspective: Ask yourself how important something really is and if it’s something really worth stressing. Decide how bad it would be to reschedule or put something off. Chances are most things just aren’t worth it.
- Acknowledge your feelings: Try not to complain. Instead, take a second to be in the moment, examine how you feel, and come up with a solution.
- Exercise: Activity is a great way to reduce stress and adopt a long-term approach for lower blood pressure.
Practice deep breathing or mindfulness to reduce stress hormones. Yoga can also help.