High Blood Pressure Facts
What every adult should know about high blood pressure, or hypertension
There’s a good reason why every doctor’s appointment starts with a blood pressure check. While one in three American adults has high blood pressure, about 20% of people are unaware that they have it because it is largely symptomless.
In fact, most people find out they have high blood pressure during a routine office visit.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is when that force is too high and begins harming the body. If left untreated, it willl eventually cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Your blood pressure is measured in two numbers: The top systolic blood pressure measures the force pushing against artery walls when the heart is contracting. The bottom diastolic blood pressure measures pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats.
Normal blood pressure levels are 120 mmHg/80 mmHg or lower. At risk levels are 120-139 mmHg/80-89 mmHg. Readings of 140 mmHg/90 mmHg or higher are defined as high blood pressure.
Here are six other things you should know about high blood pressure.
Can Stress And Anxiety Raise Blood Sugar Levels
Everyone experiences anxiety. In fact, studies show Americans are more stressed out than ever.
But can stress and anxiety actually raise the level of your blood sugar? And what does this mean for those who have diabetes?
Anxiety Causes High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is not a constant. It changes all throughout the day, going from high to low depending on what you’re doing, what you’ve eaten, how you’re feeling, and so on. At any moment you could go through some type of blood pressure fluctuation that causes a high reading, and that reading says nothing about your overall health or wellness.
What is high blood pressure?
Although there are some outside factors that play a role, generally doctors look at blood pressure using the following chart:
- Low Blood Pressure: < 90/60
- Normal Blood Pressure: 90/60 to 140/90
- High Blood Pressure: 140/90 and Up
The first number refers to the systolic pressure. That is the pressure on your arteries when your heart contracts . The diastolic is the pressure on your arteries when your heart is at rest. Systolic tends to jump up and down throughout the day, while diastolic should stay close to constant .
Although there are risks involved with low blood pressure, most doctors pay especially close attention to high blood pressure. High blood pressure readings indicate that something could be wrong with your cardiovascular system. Because of the risks associated with high blood pressure, it is important to see a doctor. But if other factors have been ruled out, it is possible that anxiety may be to blame.
Lowering Systolic Blood Pressure More May Cut Health Risks
One major study found that lowering systolic blood pressure to well below the commonly recommended level also greatly lowered the number of cardiovascular events and deaths among people at least 50 years old with high blood pressure.
When study participants achieved a systolic blood pressure target of 120 mmHg compared to the higher target of 140 mmHg recommended for most people, and 150 for people over 60 issues such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure were reduced by almost one-third, and the risk of death by almost one-fourth.
“That’s important information, because more lives may be saved and more deaths may be prevented if we maintain lower blood pressure in certain patients,” says Lynne Braun, NP, PhD, a nurse practitioner at the Rush Heart Center for Women.
Braun cautions, however, that your personal blood pressure target depends on a variety of things, including your current blood pressure, lifestyle, risk factors, other medications you are taking and your age. “Every person has to be evaluated as an individual,” she says. “Realistically, we can’t get everybody down to 120, and trying to do so may create unintended problems.”
It can be dangerous, for instance, to keep an older person on medications that have unsafe side effects, such as diuretics , which can cause dehydration and dizziness in older adults.
And there can be other issues involved with taking multiple medications, such as cost and compliance.
Can Stress Cause High Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure contributes to more than 1,000 deaths per year. Over 50 million Americans are dealing with this condition. No knowledge about the causes of high pressure is one of the biggest reasons why more and more people are becoming a victim of this potentially life-threatening condition.
It is true that the exact cause of hypertension isn’t clear, but several factors and other conditions can contribute to the development of this condition. Some of the most common factors are obesity, smoking, excessive salt intake, lack of physical activities and stress. Many people understand how obesity or smoking can play a role in the development of high blood pressure, but they really want to know the relationship between high blood pressure and stress. Can stress cause high blood pressure? Keep reading to find the answer.
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Can High Blood Pressure Cause Anxiety
Just like anxiety and stress reactions can cause spikes in blood pressure, having a medical condition like high blood pressure or heart disease can also contribute to anxiety. Depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder are particularly common after heart attacks. However, people with high blood pressure alone may feel fearful over what damage the elevated blood pressure could do to the body, and about their overall health and future.
Another source of anxiety in patients with hypertension is the symptoms that can be caused by significantly elevated blood pressure. These include:
Changes in vision
Remember that many people do not have symptoms with high blood pressure, but the knowledge of having the condition may lead to increased anxiety.
Another common source of anxiety in people with a new diagnosis of hypertension is the need for blood pressure lowering medications. Talking with your healthcare provider can often relieve fears about side effects and financial concerns associated with new medications.
It is uncommon for most blood pressure lowering medications to cause anxiety. In fact, some blood pressure medications, such as beta blockers and clonidine ,can be used to treat anxiety. That being said, different people can respond differently to medications, so if you develop increased anxiety after starting a new blood pressure medication, please contact your healthcare provider.
How You React To Chronic Stress Decides Your Hypertension Risk
Nobody is ever formally taught how to handle stress. Youre thrown into stressful situations and you find your methods to cope with them. While many turn to exercise or music, there are some unhealthy responses like smoking and binge eating, that are also common.
According to Mayoclinic, your reaction to stress in unhealthy ways is what can pose the worst risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. Common coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking, drugs, binge eating, and even negative self-talk often do more harm than good in the long term. They create new kinds of stressors and lead to chronic stress.
This is why cultivating better coping mechanisms like physical activity, meditation or even a new hobby can help in addressing everyday stress, and prevent long term complications.
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How Does Stress Affect Your Blood Pressure
Stress, in and of itself, isnt a bad thing. It can trigger your fight-or-flight response and enable you to avoid danger. It can spur you to avoid being hit by something or enable you to pull someone from danger.
The problem arises when you feel stressed all the time. You can get stressed because of problems at work, managing your family, or worrying about household repairs. While stress sometimes seems like a feature of modern-day life, the negative health effects of chronic stress are well-documented. Among other things, stress can have a negative effect on blood pressure. At Walker Family Care, the friendly staff can help you find ways to relieve your stress and get your blood pressure under control.
Good Sleep Can Prevent And Manage High Blood Pressure
Most people experience a dip in blood pressure during the deepest stage of sleep , which is the body’s normal and healthy reaction to sleep. Not having that nighttime dip is a risk factor for heart disease and may increase daytime blood pressure.
Typically people spend 90 minutes to two hours in slow wave sleep per night. A recent study published in Hypertension found that men who got less slow wave sleep each night were a higher risk for hypertension than men who got more deep sleep.
While sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, and age can both affect the amount of deep sleep you get, there are steps you can take to ensure a good night’s sleep. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and being more active during the day can help improve the quality of your sleep.
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How To Reduce Stress
The good news is that managing stress is easy, and its free. Infusing a few simple, healthy habits into your lifestyle can help lower your stress levels.
Its perfectly OK to take some time off to relax and recharge, whether thats with some gardening, binge-watching a favorite show or taking a walk, reminds Dr. Kayal.
The Link Between High Blood Pressure And Stress
When youre stressed out, your body secretes cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones tell your heart to pump blood faster, causing your blood pressure to rise temporarily. Stress can cause high blood pressure in the short term, but its unlikely to cause hypertension.
However, stress can cause hypertension indirectly. Stress can increase the chance of engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating junk food regularly, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes, all of which can contribute to elevated blood sugar levels.
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How Will Anxiety Affect High Blood Pressure
Apart from the temporary spikes of blood pressure, anxiety will be a critical condition for people already diagnosed with high blood pressure. They may get severe injuries in the heart by regularly having anxiety and panic attacks. A review done in 2015 based on existing research shows that people who have anxiety disorder are much more at risk with high blood pressure. Also, some studies prove that there is a connection between unhealthy lifestyle patterns and anxiety. This occurrence of lousy health habits may then result in acute high blood pressure disease.
Vise-versa high blood pressure could result in people with anxiety. Fear and nervous feelings may arise in the mind of people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure. Overthinking the illness and even the symptoms listed below may be enough to cause anxiety and panic attacks.
- rapid headaches
Keep A Close Eye On Your Blood Sugar Levels
Its always important to keep tabs on your stress and blood sugar. Thats why we recommend a fasting blood sugar test at every yearly physical.If your blood sugar starts to creep upwards, we can be proactive and start measures to help you.
This is particularly important if you have diabetes or prediabetes. In fact, if you have these conditions, we may suggest that you have blood sugar screenings more often. We can guide you through when you should check your blood sugar, and our dietitian can help you select healthy meals.
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Your Reaction To Stress May Affect Your Blood Pressure
Your body produces a surge of hormones when you’re in a stressful situation. These hormones temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.
There’s no proof that stress by itself causes long-term high blood pressure. But reacting to stress in unhealthy ways can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Certain behaviors are linked to higher blood pressure, such as:
Also, heart disease may be linked to certain health conditions related to stress, such as:
- Isolation from friends and family
But there’s no evidence these conditions are directly linked to high blood pressure. Instead, the hormones your body makes when you’re emotionally stressed may damage your arteries, leading to heart disease. Also, some symptoms, like those caused by depression, may cause you to forget to take medications to control high blood pressure or other heart conditions.
Increases in blood pressure related to stress can be dramatic. But when your stress goes away, your blood pressure returns to normal. However, even frequent, temporary spikes in blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys in a way similar to long-term high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure: Symptoms Treatments And Causes
If you’ve been told that you have high blood pressure, you’re not alone. Far from it, actually.
Almost 1 in 4 Canadian adults are affected by high blood pressure , and almost half of them don’t have it well controlled.
With high blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high. When it goes undiagnosed and/or untreated, high blood pressure can dramatically increase your risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and vision problems by damaging blood vessels.
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Dealing With Diabetes Can Cause Anxiety
Lets face it: Controlling diabetes is hard work. That in itself is enough to cause worry and stress. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, those with diabetes are 20 percent more likely to experience anxiety than those without the disease.
We understand this, and were dedicated to helping alleviate your worry by working together as a team to address any distressing issues.
Combinations Of Factors Can Impact Blood Pressure
There are certain combinations of factors that appear to greatly increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. For example, stress can interrupt your sleep, and the combination of poor sleep and high blood pressure together raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. There also seems to be evidence that the hormones associated with stress can damage your blood vessels, which in turn, may lead to heart disease. Even though scientists dont know exactly how stress and blood pressure are related, its clear that stress can have a dramatic effect on blood pressure.
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What High Blood Pressure Is
Also called hypertension, high blood pressure develops when your blood pumps more forcefully than necessary through your arteries, to a point that it can cause them damage.
You wont notice the effects of high blood pressure as its developing, but left neglected, it can increase your chance of heart attack or stroke down the road.
Learn More About Managing Your Hypertension
If you suspect that stress is causing your elevated blood pressure levels, seek help from a therapist to treat the root cause of your issue. Some studies indicate that mindfulness meditation may also help with stress management.
However, stress alone rarely causes hypertension. Our specialists at Bethel Family Medicine can help you identify the root cause of your elevated blood pressure and manage it through a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
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Anxiety Causes Low Blood Pressure
What you may not know is that some forms of anxiety can cause low blood pressure as well. During periods of anxiety attacks, a person may start to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation occurs when the body gets too much oxygen through either fast breathing or taking breaths that are too deep.
Hyperventilation is known to cause drops in blood pressure that can lead to feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness. So while high blood pressure is more common during anxiety, low blood pressure may occur as well.
Things That Can Increase Your Risk Of Getting High Blood Pressure
You might be more at risk if you:
- are overweight
- eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
- do not do enough exercise
- drink too much alcohol or coffee
- do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
- are over 65
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are of black African or black Caribbean descent
- live in a deprived area
Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high.
How Can You Get Your Blood Pressure Under Control
If stress and anxiety are whats causing your blood pressure fluctuations, its natural to think that anxiety medication is the best solution. While some research indicates that its useful in certain instances, its not considered a first line treatment. Instead, try these proven prescription and lifestyle changes to get things back under control.
Know What Brings You Pleasure And Find Ways To Enjoy The Experience
Perhaps you enjoy volunteer opportunities or cooking your favorite foods. By taking time not only to participate in these activities but to intentionally enjoy them, you can build a satisfying life rather than hurry through your relaxing activities at a stressful pace.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
Last Reviewed: Oct 31, 2016
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How Does Stress Put Me At Risk For High Blood Pressure
In stressful situations, your body produces hormones like adrenaline, which triggers your fight or flight response. This natural, fear-based response can make your heart temporarily beat faster and work harder. When your heart beats faster and harder, your blood vessels become narrower, which can lead to high blood pressure.
During stressful times, your blood pressure may rise for a short time. Typically, your blood pressure will return to normal once the stressful situation ends.