Is Your Stress Causing Hypertension?
By Michelle Hoeing Bauche, MS RDN LD CSOWN
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major health problem and occurs frequently in overweight and obese individuals. If untreated, it can result in cardiovascular disease and complications of the kidneys. The risk factors for developing hypertension include old age, family history, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking.
Quite often, doctors cannot find a specific cause of hypertension, but there are certain factors that increase the risk of developing this disease. Chronic stress has been linked to increased risks of hypertension because it causes our body to release the hormone cortisol. Some cortisol is a normal part of a healthy functioning body, but excess cortisol can lead to excess inflammation in the body. This can further lead to a reduction in immune function, increase in blood sugar levels, as well as elevated blood pressure.
Reducing exposure to chronic stress can lead to significant benefits of your overall health. A few ways to reduce stress include meditation, deep breathing, and exercise. Stress can also be reduced by reaching out to close friends and family members in times of stressful events. It is also important to find activities you enjoy which may include socializing, attending concerts, or playing games, among many others.
It is also important to recognize and identify when we are stressed. Some common symptoms can include lack of interest, withdrawing from activities, change in mood and behavior. Stress is likely unavoidable in the majority of the population, but being able to recognize when it is affecting you and treating it appropriately are good measures to take in order to prevent it from negatively impacting your health and leading to conditions such as hypertension.