Stress and Hypertension

The term stress is used when there is imbalance between environmental demands and person’s ability to meet the. In general sense, we feel that we are surrounded with tremendous pressure and workload and where we actually wonder whether we can really cope with such pressure placed upon us. The reason of stress may vary from person to person i.e. it may be due to job, family condition, emotions or even anxiety disorders. Anything that possesses challenge or stress to our well-being is a stress.

The link between stress and illness is regarded as part of everyday experience. You might have noticed that whenever you are angry, worried or emotionally disturbed your body start shivering, glows red, body temperature rises and in worse cases it may lead to heart attack. Stress can also considered as major cause for hypertension. According to one survey, one out of every two respondents showed the leading cause for hypertension as “Emotional pressure, worry or anxiety.” Thus stress and hypertension are closely related. Earlier stress was not considered as major risk factor for hypertension like overweight, high cholesterol level, alcohol because it was not possible to measure exact level of stress, hostility, anger, anxiety and to quantify those feelings in discrete numbers and mentioning them on patient charts. However nowadays scenario has been changed, doctors give special emphasis on ‘medical counseling’ of hypertensive patient.

Stress can be classified either as emotional stress or physical stress. Not all kind of stress is harmful like physical stress is necessary for an athlete or army officer in order to stay active and fit. Daily exercise helps us to tackle both physical and mental stress.

Signs of stress

Your body gives certain indication on long term exposure to stress which can be physical, emotional or behavioral signs. Such signs should not be ignored otherwise it may lead serious health problems.
Some common signs of stress:

  • Physical signs – Dizziness, headache, grinding teeth, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, tiredness, sweaty palms, upset stomach.
  • Behavioral signs – Bossiness, explosive and impulsive actions, critical attitudes towards others, frequent job changes and withdrawal from social relationships, constant worry, difficulty to concentrate and make decision.
  • Emotional signs – Anger, anxiety, crying, depression, frequent mood swings, irritability, loneliness, negative thinking, sadness, nervousness.

Effects of stress

Various chemicals like adrenaline and cortisone rush into your blood stream and raise blood pressure when you feel stress, anger or hostility and also guide us to take necessary actions in stressful events. Your autonomic nervous system puts your body in Fight or Flight mode for example – On encountering with any wild animal one instantly starts running or either stands back and fights. The following changes takes place on confronting the attacker:

  • First of all digestion stops. This enables more transportation of blood to brain and muscles for quick thinking and ability to run fast or fight.
  • Breathing increases which facilitates faster transport of oxygen from lungs to blood thus muscles and brain gets more energy.
  • Pulse rate increases that raises blood pressure so that more blood can be transferred to muscles and brain.
  • Sweating starts in order to dissipate heat caused by increased blood flow.

In case of physical stress, your body releases adrenaline which leads to increase blood pressure, blood flow and heart rate that enable fight or flight response. But in case of emotional stress another hormone, cortisol is released along with adrenaline. Cortisol generally acts as energy source as it converts proteins, fat and glycogen which are present in lean tissues to glucose. Regular physical exercise burns up this excess glucose and fatty substance but in case of emotional stressful situations, glucose and fatty substances are not burned off. This increase in cortisol level causes increase in stomach acidity and tissue breakdown as results of this you develop ulcers and muscles weaken.

Stress and hypertension

How Stress causes Hypertension

As mentioned above, during mental stress the demand for oxygen increases as blood pressure and heart rate increases. But sometimes stiffened arteries resist the flow of higher blood and coronary arteries collapse, thus decreasing blood supply. Such lack of blood flow is responsible for heart attack.

In most cases, job stress is the main reason for hypertension. We know that during working hours our blood pressure normally rises but as jobs get over it returns to normal due to resilient nature of arteries. If such stress repeats daily, the resilient nature of arteries decreases and blood pressure remains high even during nonworking hours and slowly you develop hypertension and further the risk of heart attack and stroke increases. A chance of stroke and attack doubles in case of cigarette smoking, alcohol or sedentary lifestyle.

People with job related stress shows rise in systolic pressure similar to those which are observed during aging and sedentary lifestyle and Diastolic count reaches up to 83-96 mmHg. The risk of hypertension is more in men’s as compared to women’s as women’s tends to endure such stressful life style successfully than men. But nowadays as women’s are becoming more career oriented, management of both professional and personal life may lead to mental stress and then hypertension. Job stress plus improper marital life is a perfect formula for hypertension. We know that work can’t be avoided but you should learn to maintain the balance between professional and personal lifestyle.

The first step should be to minimize communication gap between you and your partner. Adjust your schedule in a way so that you can devote some time for your family members. Sit together and talk say at least for 10mins, allow your partner to leak their frustration out and share their thoughts. This not only helps in reducing emotional stress but also strengthens your relationship.

Steps to reduce stress

If your lifestyle is responsible for stress, some modifications in lifestyle like meditation and regular exercise and avoiding negative thinking, cigarette, alcohol or overtime may also be responsible for reduction of stress.

Meditation is one of the best methods for reducing stress. It’s not a difficult activity what you have to do is take a break from your busy schedule. Sit down and relax for some time. Sit with your back straight up and legs crossed, place your arms on top of your legs and your palms up. Then close your eyes slowly and start inhaling air. After inhaling maximum air, hold your breath for few minutes with your back still upright. Then slowly start exhaling air. Try to feel air and how body inflates and then deflates air. Again inhale air and repeat the same procedure, you will definitely feel relaxed. Try to conduct such activity daily. Thus we can say that meditation is much better than medication.stress and hypertension

Always gather positive thoughts in your mind. Try to avoid negative thoughts. Suppose you are in very bad mood, sit down, relax, and close your eyes, start thinking about happiest moment of your life. This may help in changing mood.
Nowadays, psychologist has developed technique called biofeedback in which they concentrate on breathing or heart rate and heart rate is recorded by machine. However this technique is expensive but quite helpful.

There another device called RESPEeRATE which can be used for management of both stress and hypertension. It reduces resistance in blood vessels, thus facilitates blood flow and lowers blood pressure.

The best way via which we can control stress is Exercise. If you don’t enjoy giving lots of physical stress to body like going gym, indulge yourself in mild physical exercise like bicycle riding, walking, jogging, cleaning room, dancing, gardening, cooking.  In short, always do such thing which makes you feel happy and you enjoy doing it.

There are many stress relief pills like Valium (diazepam) available in market but they are associated with lots of Side effects like drowsiness. The natural method for relieving stress is by drinking a cup of coffee or green tea. Green tea consists of L-theanine that reduces stress and facilitates relaxation with no drowsiness. The l-theanine can easily get absorbed from small intestine, crosses blood brain barrier and reaches brain where it stimulates production of restful and relaxed alpha brain waves. This effect is similar to the effects produced during meditation.