Consider this: Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, and only one-quarter have the problem under control. There are many reasons for these staggering numbers, including stress, which is at an all-time high for many of us these days thanks to current events.
At James Kim Cardiology, Dr. Kim and our team believe that education is paramount when it comes to safeguarding your cardiovascular health. After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and a whopping 200,000 of these deaths could have been prevented.
For this reason, we want to highlight the link between stress and hypertension, and how you can lower your blood pressure numbers by lowering your levels of stress.
Your body and stress
To better understand the effects that stress can have on the human body, let’s take a look at what happens when you’re stressed.
Stress is a fight-or-flight response in your body that’s designed to protect you from danger. When you experience stress, it sets off a chain of physiological responses in your body starting with the release of your stress hormones — cortisol and adrenaline.
These hormones cause several changes in your body, including:
- Elevated heart rate
- Blood vessel constriction
- Muscle tension
- Increased and more shallow breathing rate
- Pupil dilation
Each of these processes is geared toward providing you with the resources necessary to take decisive action when you’re confronted by danger.
Stress and hypertension
The fight-or-flight response is intended to be temporary. Your stress hormones ebb when the danger has passed, and your body goes back to functioning normally.
Unfortunately, when we experience long periods of stress, you can remain “stuck” in this response, which causes this situational hypertension to linger far longer than is good for your cardiovascular system.
While medical researchers are still determining the exact link between stress and chronic hypertension, the connection is clear.
Reducing stress to lower your blood pressure
While there are many things you can do to lower your blood pressure through health-conscious lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, exercising more, and dietary changes are great examples), let’s take a look at ways you can tackle the stress piece of this hypertension puzzle.
One of the best ways to lower stress is to get moving. There’s an old adage that you can move a muscle to change a thought, so if you find your brain mired by stressful thoughts, get up and exercise. Often, a simple walk around the block can do the trick and relax both your body and your mind.
Another great way to combat stress is to remove some of those triggers, such as the news. There’s plenty of bad news these days, so we suggest that you take a break and turn off your electronics from time to time.
The reality is that there’s little you can do in that moment to change the news other than to tune it out for your health.
Deep-breathing exercises are also a great way to combat stress. If you take a moment to yourself and practice breathing in for four seconds and out for four seconds, you can regulate the physiological processes in your body to create better balance.
The bottom line is that stress that comes with the fight-or-flight response can be very useful in times of danger, but the trick is not to rest in this state for very long.
If you’d like to learn more about the connection between stress and hypertension and the many ways you can better manage your cardiovascular health, contact one of our two locations in National City or Chula Vista, California.