Updated: Oct 28, 2021
2020 and 2021 have shaped up to be a pretty stressful couple of years, and whilst that has encouraged many people to seek help for their mental health (good on you!), we also want to stress the importance of your physical health too, especially aspects of it, like blood pressure, that can be directly affected by your level of stress.
How Does Stress Affect Blood Pressure?
When under a stressful situation, your body will release a flood of extra hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol, into your blood stream. It's a perfectly natural response and really a beautiful system to keep you safe. After all, in fight or flight situations, the effects these hormones have on your heart and cardiovascular system are essential for survival: extra adrenaline in the body, especially alongside additional cortisol produced at the same time, can make you run faster, have quicker reflexes, even dull intense pain despite injury, all of which are critical to immediate survival. Long term effects of these hormones though, can have unsurprisingly, long-term effects on the body, one of the most significant being high blood pressure.
In the fight or flight response produced under stress, your heart beats faster to get more oxygen to your major muscles which constricts the blood vessels thus raising your blood pressure. Once the stressful situation has passed and your heart rate returns to normal, your blood pressure should drop. Only sometimes, it doesn't. Especially when you've been exposed to continuous, long-term stress like that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused nearly everyone around the world and you've consequently developed unhealthy habits that have a known direct link to your health, including your blood pressure. Chronically elevated blood pressure is known medically as hypertension and it effects nearly half of all adults in Spain between the ages of 35 and 65.
What Else Can Cause My High Blood Pressure?
Stress hormones may directly damage your arteries, leading to high blood pressure and heart disease; and unhealthy, stress-induced habits like smoking, drinking or indulging in too many unhealthy foods have also all been shown to have a direct link to your blood pressure level. But is stress the only contributing factor to high blood pressure? The answer is a resounding “no.” Although the exact causes of hypertension are not entirely known, other risk factors for this disease include being overweight, poor sleep or lack of sleep, genetics and age, which is why perhaps hypertension is a condition that so many people suffer from, despite their best efforts to lead a healthy life. Some medications for other medical conditions can also increase your blood pressure.
Should I Be Worried About My High Blood Pressure?
Occasional high blood pressure is not something that you should worry about. It is a perfectly natural and perfectly healthy response that occurs within the body. Chronic high blood pressure that doesn't return to normal after time is however, something that you should speak with your GP or internalist about for two very important reasons: Firstly, you should not ignore your hypertension because it could be the side effect of another serious disease that needs treatment such as kidney disease, diabetes, sleep apnoea, under or over-active thyroid, lupus (an autoimmune disease), or scleroderma (a condition which causes thickened skin, organs, and blood vessels). Secondly, you should always work with your doctor to get your hypertension under control because chronic high blood pressure could lead to kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, or a host of other serious and life-threatening cardiovascular conditions.
In all cases, if you're worried about blood pressure, talk to your doctor. Diagnosing hypertension is easy and straightforward, merely requiring monitoring of your blood pressure over a given length of time (usually 24 hours) to determine if your high blood pressure is a perfectly normal fluctuation that occurs throughout the day or if it's consistently high, requiring treatment.
What Can You Do About High Blood Pressure?
Whether it's due to stress or any other reason, if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, it's important to work with your doctor to monitor it and get it under control. Depending on your personal medical history and lifestyle, the first treatment option is to put lifestyle changes into place as advised by your GP or internalist. If these changes don't help lower your blood pressure to safe levels or if your initial risk for serious complications due to your hypertension is too high, your doctor may prescribe medications designed to lower your blood pressure over time. Remember though, that there are a number of possible medications that you can take to treat hypertension so make sure you speak with your doctor to find the one that will work best for your specific situation. In extremely severe cases, there are also some surgical options to treat hypertension, although this course of treatment is very rare.
At Reisbeck private medical clinic in Marbella, our specialists, internalists, family doctors and GPs are well-versed in all the aspects of hypertension, it's causes, effects and treatment options. We also have a clear patient-centric and whole-body holistic approach to all our diagnostics and treatments so we'll get to know your full medical and personal background to treat not just your high blood pressure but all the causes as well as the primary and secondary effects of your condition. Contact us to request an initial appointment to discuss your health concerns, whatever they may be, so we can work towards getting and keeping, your physical and mental health in prime condition.