General Health Thursday June 21, 2012

Could high blood pressure be worsened by stress?

For many people high blood pressure is synonymous with stress, but according to science, there isn't a direct link between actual long-term hypertension and elevated stress levels. Your blood pressure may temporarily increase as a result of stress hormones, but blood pressure tends to return to normal afterwards. However, stress still isn’t good for our cardiovascular health, because it exposes us to a number of factors that place us at risk of developing high blood pressure . So even if stress doesn’t have a direct long-term effect on our blood pressure, it’s a factor that needs to be kept under control to preserve our overall health.

How stress causes high blood pressure

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, it causes your body to produce a number of hormones that can cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to become narrower. It’s not yet been proven what all the long-term effects of this reaction are within your body. However, it is thought that overeating, eating unhealthily, bad lifestyle choices, drinking too much and lack of sleep as a result of stress can eventually increase your risk of hypertension. Stress can also cause a person to be prone to self-destructive behaviour, which can also make it more likely that a person would take part in things that could affect their blood pressure negatively, such as not taking medications when they should, for example.

Methods to reduce stress and stress management

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it’s good to know how to keep it under control to avoid it taking over and influencing your quality of life. Below is a list of five things that can be done to reduce stress:

Eat healthily – Nutrition is very important when it comes to effectively managing stress, so avoid sweet foods that are high in carbohydrates as well as alcohol when you are feeling the pressure. Although it may seem like comfort food or alcohol provides relief from stress, it’s not the case and only contributes to the problem.

Exercise regularly – Exercise = endorphins, which are hormones that can help you feel relaxed, happy and positive. The best way to get endorphins flowing is by doing aerobic exercise. Ideally, this should be non-competitive as this can cause you to feel stressed when the aim is really to relax.

Take time to relax every day - No matter how busy you are, you should make time to relax. You can do this through mindfulness exercises, meditation or other visualisation techniques. Not only can these relaxation methods help you alleviate stress, they can also help you reaffirm your beliefs and help you focus on your goals, which in turn also better enables you to be more assertive.

Sleep enough – It’s easy to neglect sleep if you have a really busy schedule, but we need to rest in order to maintain a healthy mind and body. When you rest, you should do so for long enough to allow both your body and mind enough time to relax effectively.

Be more assertive – It’s important to be able to say ‘no’ when you aren’t capable of doing something or you are asked to do something that isn't in accordance with your principles. This also means that you might have to learn how to ask for assistance if you need it to complete tasks.

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