Most everyone believes stress, the underlying cause of most disease, also causes hypertension. Guess again. The medical jury is still out. This is a real medical conundrum. While stress doesn?t directly cause hypertension, systemic organ damage due to prolonged stress can cause hypertension.
Scientific research has shown an increased risk of hypertension as a result of long term stress. Scientific research is also quick to point out that excess stress itself leads to other contributing factors of hypertension. For example, overly stressed people generally tend to self-medicate by over-eating, smoking, drinking alcohol and ignoring normal exercise routines. These unhealthy habits create more stress as the immune system gets bogged down, creating a vicious cycle.
Long Term And Situational Stress Factors
An established role stress plays in elevating blood pressure is the temporary increase in blood pressure levels during times of high stress. Blood pressure levels revert to normal once the source of this stress, often referred to as “situational stress,” is removed.
In my book, Stress Rx: 103 Prescriptions for Overcoming Stress and Achieving Lifelong Happiness, I provide anecdotes and awareness antidotes to relieve and release stresses before stress becomes chronic. There is a proven correlation between chronic stress and changes in the way blood clots. Clotting abnormalities can increase the risk of heart attack. Chronic or prolonged stress also prevents elevated blood pressure levels from
receding. This perpetuates raised hormone levels of adrenaline and cortisol, poisoning the system and damaging the organs, as well as increasing the risk for stroke and heart attack.
Common stressors include financial strain, relationship turmoil, job related stress and emotional unrest. Regardless of the cause of the stress, the outcome is the same. Extended stress stimulates the nervous system, which causes arteries to tighten and increases blood pressure. Finding solutions to take much needed “stress breaks” is mandatory for the stabilization of blood flow and pressure.
Remember, stress can be mental, physical or a combination of both. When stress takes us into the flight-or-fight response, glucose and fat cells flood the blood. If stress levels are sustained over long periods of time rather than brief instances, as intended by this mechanism, then high glucose levels are the result.
Warning signs of being “stressed out” include:
• Mental — worry, lack of concentration and creativity, difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, lack of interest in life in general
• Physical — headaches, digestive problems, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, tension, dizziness, shakiness, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
• Emotional — depression, bouts of crying, mood swings, anger, sadness, nervousness, irritability
• Behavioral — overeating, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, judgmental attitude, withdrawal from social activities
While change is inevitable, it is usually not easy. Preventive change through stress reduction techniques that include meditation, tai chi / qigong, exercise, green diet and the cultivation of peace, love and compassion for oneself and others will keep the blood flowing freely and normalize pressure both in your life and blood.