The American Heart Association says more than 100 million Americans have hypertension (more commonly known as high blood pressure). That means all those men and women are at increased risks for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, dementia, kidney and vision problems, and even some types of cancer.
Many people know the common risk factors for heart disease, including older age, being overweight, smoking, and eating a diet high in sodium. But what many people don’t know is that stress can also have an effect on your blood pressure. Learning how to manage stress can play an important role in helping you keep your blood pressure under control.
At TLC Medical Group, Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC and his team help patients manage their hypertension with individualized treatment plans based on their unique needs. If you have high blood pressure, here’s what you should know about stress and its link with hypertension.
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force your blood exerts on the walls of your blood vessels during normal circulation. For most people, healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80mmHg, according to the CDC, while high blood pressure is defined as blood pressure that’s 130/80 mmHg or higher.
When blood pressure is higher than normal, the extra pressure or force can wind up damaging your organs, including your kidneys, your eyes, and your brain. Chronic hypertension can also weaken the walls of your blood vessels, increasing the risk of strokes and other medical problems.
Many people can reduce their risks of high blood pressure by altering some of their habits. Giving up smoking, reducing fat intake, and getting more exercise are good examples of lifestyle changes that can have a positive effect on hypertension.
Other risk factors, including older age and family history of high blood pressure, can’t be changed. If you have any of these “non-modifiable” risk factors, it’s even more important to do all you can to reduce the risks you can control — including stress.
Researchers are still learning about the link between high blood pressure and stress levels. What they know so far is that stress appears to affect your blood pressure (and your overall health) in a couple of key ways.
When you feel stressed, your body releases “stress hormones” as part of its built-in fight-or-flight response. These hormones make your heart beat faster while also constricting your blood vessels. Together, these effects raise your blood pressure temporarily. While a single stressful event might not do any damage, chronic or recurrent stress can have cumulative effects on your blood vessels and your heart over time.
Stress may also increase unhealthy habits that can contribute to high blood pressure. People who are stressed out on a regular basis may be more likely to consume alcohol, smoke, or overeat, for example. All of these habits can increase your risk for high blood pressure, as well as heart disease.
Hypertension often causes no noticeable symptoms in its early stages, which is why it’s sometimes called “the silent killer.” If you have risk factors for high blood pressure, scheduling a screening is an important part of making sure you get the care you need as early as possible.
To book your screening at our practice in Port St. Lucie, Florida, call the office or schedule your visit online today.