I don’t think people realize how important it is to have your blood pressure checked. Stroke is so sudden, so catastrophic – Miriam Margolyes
It’s easy to relate anxiety with high blood pressure. After all, when you’re anxious, you can get stressed, and stress can cause your blood pressure to temporarily rise.
But what about chronic anxiety and long-term high blood pressure or hypertension?
You can correlate chronic anxiety and high blood pressure with each other in some specific situations. Dr. Christopher Celano, associate director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital added – “Our mind and our thoughts certainly are connected to our hearts”.
He also added – “A little anxiety can be motivating…the parasympathetic nervous system helps you relax, and a balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems is essential for heart health.”
But unfortunately, a majority of people don’t have that balance. Celano continues – “When people are chronically anxious, they may experience changes to their immune system, blood vessels, and platelets that may contribute to heart disease…people who have anxiety all the time and worry about a lot of different things—those are probably people who are going to be more at risk for heart disease and hypertension in the long run”.
Doctors characterize anxiety as feelings of intense worry or fear. It causes many physical symptoms, including increased heart rate and shallow breathing.
Before we dive into the details, please note that this article is written by a health expert with a formal degree. For more articles written by health professionals and journalists with medical background, please check Rolling Paper.
Next, let’s learn more about the link between anxiety and high blood pressure, as well as how to treat both conditions.
Before discussing the relationship, let put some light on the definitions.
What is anxiety
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
It is wise to know the difference between normal anxiety feelings and an anxiety disorder.
What are the types of anxiety disorders?
Anxiety is the prime reason for several mental disorders. These may include:
- Social anxiety disorder – Fear of being judged by others socially.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder – Continuous specific, repeated behaviors.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Anxiety caused by a traumatic event.
- Panic disorder – Feeling continuous panic attacks unexpectedly.
- Phobia – Excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity.
- Separation anxiety disorder – Fear of being away from home or loved ones.
- Illness anxiety disorder – Anxiety about your health, it was also called hypochondria.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety feeling may differ from person to person. You might feel out of control and disconnected between your mind and body.
You may experience anxiety through nightmares, panic attacks, and painful memories. You may have a general feeling of fear, or you might be scared of a specific place or event.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- Increased heart rate;
- Rapid breathing;
- Lack of concentration;
- Dry mouth;
- Excessive sweating;
- Chills or hot flashes;
- Numbness or tingling.
Your anxiety symptoms might be different from someone else’s.
Causes of anxiety
The causes of anxiety disorders are not so clear. Possible causes include:
- Environmental stressors– Work pressure, relationship issues, or family issues;
- Genetical– If you have a history within your family with an anxiety disorder;
- Medical factors – Due to the symptoms of a different disease, the effects of a medication, or the stress of an intensive surgery or long recovery;
- Issues in your brain – Psychologists define many anxiety disorders arises due to misalignments of hormones and electrical signals in the brain.
Now let’s have an eye on defining blood pressure.
What is blood pressure?
When our heartbeats, it pumps and regulates blood around the body. This way it gives us the energy and oxygen our body requires. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pressure is called blood pressure.
If blood pressure reaches higher levels, it’ll put extra pressure on your arteries as well as on your heart. This way you may encounter heart attacks and strokes.
What is high blood pressure or hypertension?
High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is when your blood pressure reaches a comparatively higher level, and the force of your blood puts strains on your blood vessels.
Systolic blood pressure number:
- Normal systolic pressure is below 120;
- A reading of 120-129 is elevated;
- 130-139 is stage 1 high blood pressure (also called hypertension);
- 140 or more is stage 2 hypertension;
- 180 or more is a hypertensive crisis. Call 911.
Diastolic blood pressure number:
- 80-89 is stage 1 hypertension;
- 90 or more is stage 2 hypertension;
- 120 or more is a hypertensive crisis. Call 911.
What are the symptoms of hypertension?
Hypertension is generally a silent condition but if you look closely you may notice the symptoms.
Symptoms of severe hypertension may include:
- Severe headaches;
- Sweating too much;
- Chest pain;
- Blood in the urine.
If you notice these symptoms, then you must go for immediate medical treatment.
Can anxiety cause hypertension?
Well, not exactly. A high anxiety period or panic attacks can make your blood pressure high. But hypertension doesn’t need to be always caused by anxiety.
However, a temporary increase in blood pressure is risky too. A sudden rise in blood pressure can damage blood vessels and put stress on your heart and kidneys.
Another thing is that people having anxiety disorders tend to do other unhealthy things to ease their situations. They used to smoke a lot, drink alcohol, and do lots of other stuff to get rid of anxiety.
But, if you consult popular mental health industry professionals such as American board psychiatry, they might suggest some effective ways to reduce anxiety and keep the blood pressure under control.
But, here are some of the most effective ways to control anxiety and blood pressure.
11 ways to reduce stress and keep blood pressure down
When it comes to reducing and healing hypertension issues, one often-overlooked strategy is treating anxiety issues and managing stress. If you often find yourself tense and anxious and can’t concentrate on your work, try these 10 effective ways to reduce hypertension.
a) Get enough sleep
”Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama
Inadequate or poor-quality sleep can harm your health and cause health issues such as low energy levels, lack of motivation, headache, etc. Having enough sleep is good for reducing blood pressure.
b) Make yourself relaxed
Use different techniques to reduce anxiety through meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga. These are very effective relaxation techniques and anxiety-busters.
Another choice can be supplements like kava. Kava is a drug made from the ground roots of the plant Piper methysticum, native to the South Pacific. Kava can be taken as a drink or as a supplement or extract. In small doses, the effects of kava include muscle relaxation, sleepiness and feelings of wellbeing. However, long-term use of kava can lead to a range of health problems, including malnutrition, weight loss and apathy, so go through some kava guides before jumping in.
c) Strengthen your social network
Connect with others by taking a music class, joining a social organization, or participating in a public welfare program. The more you connect with people, you can keep away anxiety and hypertension.
d) Try to avoid stressful situations
Don’t let yourself be buried under stressful situations. Organize problem-solving sessions and use negotiation skills to make a way out of those situations.
e) Take good care of yourself
Eat slowly and focus on the taste and sensations of each bite. Whatever you do, do it with patience. Take a walk when you feel bored, read favorite books or listen to your favorite music. Eat good, think good, and breathe freely.
f) Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family. Your spouse, friends, and neighbors are the people who care about you. If you are getting stressed, spend quality time with your family, kids.
This is a natural stressbuster and reduces your anxiety quickly. If you still need professional help you may talk to your doctor.
g) Reduce sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can improve your heart health and reduce blood pressure by about 5 to 6 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure.
h) Do regular exercise
Regular exercise releases hormones in your body that will help you to lower both anxiety and blood pressure. All you need is 15 to 30 minutes a day to workout. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routines.
i) Cut back on caffeine
Caffeine can raise blood pressure to 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure.
j) Avoid alcohol and smoking
Alcohol in small amounts is good for your heart. But in large amounts, it may lead to heart diseases. Any amount of alcohol can make anxiety worse.
On the other hand, each cigarette you smoke may increase your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal.
You should avoid drinking and smoking, having both chronic anxiety and hypertension.
k) Have a good sex life
Having sex is the best physical activity that involves the full body hardcore activity, burning about 5 calories per minute. It has been connected to other health benefits including lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels.
Sex boosts your body’s ability to make protective antibodies against bacteria, viruses, and other germs that cause common illnesses.
Sometimes, sexual dysfunction (like erectile dysfunction) can be tied to anxiety and hypertension. But, if you’re healthy enough to engage in sex with your partner, you’ll find it much beneficial than normal ways of working out.
Feeling anxious? Take a deep breath, listen to your thoughts, try to figure them out, then take things one day at a time.
Trust yourself. You’ve survived a lot, and you’ll survive whatever is coming. – Robert Tew