High blood pressure isn’t called the “silent killer” for nothing. Most people with high blood pressure (also called Hypertension) don’t know they have it. But if left untreated, it can cause hardening of the arteries, stroke, kidney damage, and even cognitive decline and dementia.
However, the condition is, in most cases, asymptomatic. This is why regular screening is so important.
In simpler terms, blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of blood vessels and arteries. It is expressed in two numbers: the top number (systolic blood pressure) represents the pressure, or force, in the arteries when the heart beats, and the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure) is the pressure measured between heartbeats.
Therefore, high blood pressure is dangerous because it means the heart is working harder to pump blood throughout the body.
The relationship between chronic stress and hypertension
For most people, high blood pressure is multifactorial, meaning that several factors work together to push your levels into unsafe territory. But chronic stress is increasingly associated with excessively high blood pressure.
From an evolutionary standpoint, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released into the blood to help us escape from danger (fight or flight). Doing so increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, constricts blood vessels, and enlarges your pupils to help you think and move quickly.
In the past, a stressful event was usually over very quickly. But today, the relentless demands of work, busy schedules, relationships, and even social media have led to an epidemic of chronic stress, triggering the release of those same stress hormones.
However, unlike the past of our ancestors, there is often no rest, it is static. Therefore, blood pressure can remain high. One study, for example, found that spending more than 41 hours a week at work increased the risk of developing high blood pressure by 17%.
How to Reverse
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to lower stress hormone levels and reduce their impact on blood pressure.
Therefore, practices like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or even reading a book can also control stress hormones.
You should also stop certain activities, such as checking work emails, at all times. Finally, you need to know yourself and your triggers to understand how you can move away from situations that increase stress and anxiety.