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Impact of Stress on Blood Pressure

Everyone reacts to stress in different ways and so does your body. You may experience a headache, stomach ache, feel cranky, forgetful or out of control.  A little stress is a good thing.  But when your body remains in high alert (fight-or- flight mode) off and on for a few days or weeks this increases your cortisol hormone. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels. But stress can also trigger certain behaviors that may contribute to high blood pressure. Those triggers include over eating, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, getting too little or too much sleep, smoking cigarettes, and avoiding exercise. These habits can increase your blood pressure and may damage artery walls. If you are engaging in even one of these behaviors, you may not be dealing with stress as well as you could.

When we think about prevention and treatment for high blood pressure, we often overlook strategies in managing stress. You cannot always eliminate the source of stress, but you can develop coping mechanisms to help handle stress better. Here are some tips to manage stress better.

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene: stick to a schedule, sleep with your phone out of reach, and don’t watch TV before bed.
  2. Learn relaxation techniques: meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing exercises are all powerful stress- busters.
  3. Ask for help: don’t be afraid to ask for help from your support system. Asking your spouse, friends, or neighbors for help does not show a sign of weakness.
  4. Improve your time-management skills: delegate tasks, set up deadlines, avoid multitasking, and prioritize work before the start of the day.
  5. Know your stress triggers: keep a stress journal and take notes of the days and times you feel stress. This will help you to distinguish positive stress from toxic stress.
  6. Keep active: This doesn’t mean you need to do a triathlon but take little steps towards moving more during the day.
  7. Do something for yourself: read a book, listen to music, go for a run or walk, or take a relaxing bath.

We live in stressful times. Finding ways to reduce stress can have a positive impact on your health and blood pressure. Make sure you’re taking care of your body. It’s the only one you get.

 

Carrie Miller, RN, MSN

– source from American Heart Association