How are stress and high blood pressure linked?
Stressful situations can cause your blood pressure to spike temporarily but can it have a long-term effect on our blood pressure as well? Hormones produced when you’re emotionally stressed cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. Stress can also cause hypertension (high blood pressure) through repeated stimulation of the nervous system and production of vasoconstricting (blood vessel narrowing) hormones that increase blood pressure.
Although studies have shown that stress does not directly cause high blood pressure, it is thought to play a prevalent part in elevating it.1 Your blood pressure isn’t constant, in fact it changes throughout the day depending on your activities, what you’ve eaten and how you’re feeling. As I’ve already mentioned, stress temporarily elevates blood pressure however, if you suffer from constant stress then chances are you’ll have an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Know your stress triggers
There are a number of factors that can contribute and cause symptoms of stress but identifying them can be extremely beneficial in managing your stress levels and, therefore also for managing your blood pressure levels. Areas such as work, family, relationships, money and health can all contribute to our levels of stress. It is natural for each and every one of us to feel a little stressed from time to time, but it’s important to note when things seem to be getting too much to handle.
Try keeping a stress journal and take note of days and times that you feel stressed and (if you know) why you feel this way. This will hopefully give you some further insight into what triggers your stress and then you can take the appropriate steps to deal with it. Not only will this be beneficial for helping you to feel happier and experience an overall sense of wellbeing, it will also help to lower you blood pressure levels too.
Get to know nature
When was the last time you were outside? Growing amounts of research suggest that nature is good for our health. One study found that spending just 30 minutes in nature was enough to have a positive impact on depression and high blood pressure levels.2 There are dozens of benefits to spending time in nature including; increased relaxation, boosts to the immune system, more oxygen-rich air, more vitamin D, increased creativity, reduced stress and lower blood pressure to name a few! To find out more about the benefits of spending time in nature check out Marianna’s blog ‘Forest bathing: how nature makes us happier.’
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Here at A.Vogel, we love using herbs to help us out when things just get a little too much. For mild stress and anxiety I always choose our gentle AvenaCalm remedy which is made from organically grown Avena sativa. This is a licensed herbal remedy that is perfect for relief in times of stress. Our tincture is made from the green leafy parts of the plant rather than the oat grain which is more commonly used in food.
You may be wondering why this tip makes my list – surely not? You’re breathing right now, why do you need a reminder? Well it’s not so much a reminder in case you’ve forgotten, but a reminder to breathe deeply, using the full capacity of your lungs. Why? Well, breathing this way increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and this increase in blood oxygen levels helps to improve our blood circulation.
What’s more, when we exhale for longer than we inhale, the vagus nerve sends a signal to the brain to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which prompts a state of relaxation physiologically. Check out our ‘breathing tips to relieve stress’ for some easy techniques you can try alongside some easy to follow videos to help you out.
Being inactive is linked to high blood pressure levels so taking actions to increase your activity levels will certainly help with controlling and even reducing your blood pressure. Exercising is also extremely important when it comes to combatting stress! It has been scientifically proven to work as well as medication for some people in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.3 In relation to stress, exercise helps to expel the excess levels of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol that high levels of stress can cause.
While it’s true that exercise temporarily raises your blood pressure to keep up with your increased heart rate, this soon returns to normal and, the more you exercise, the quicker this change will happen!4
That’s not to say that you need to run a marathon or pump iron at the gym in order to see results, little steps towards moving more are a great place to start. It’s always important to get a doctor’s approval first before embarking on a new exercises regime, particularly if you are prone to extremely high blood pressure. Plus, they will be able to give you some extra advice on getting started.
Why not try walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift? Or do some arm reps with some tins of beans? Or park the car a little bit away from the building you need to enter so that you need to walk a little further to get there? Or, when the TV adverts are on, why not try doing a couple of easy jumping jacks as demonstrated in the video below?
Turn that frown upside down!
A positive attitude and self-esteem are good defences against stress because they help you to keep things in perspective and prevent you from surrendering to the negative emotions that can crop up because of stress. While you may not be able to control what goes on in the external world, you can control your own emotions and responses to situations. From exercise and diet to stress reduction, there are many natural ways that you can control your blood pressure, check out my blog for some easy and simple lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure.
Relaxing is important
When it comes to tackling stress, your chill zone is so important. When we are in high pressure jobs, or have mountains of responsibility, or if we have deadlines to contend with, we need to know how to switch off and separate ourselves from the feelings of stress that can easily erupt.
It doesn’t matter how you de-stress, it just needs to work for you! There are lots of ways out there that you can achieve this, whether it’s having a bath, reading a book, going for a walk, pounding it out in the gym, or spending time with friends and family. If you’re not sure what relaxes you, or indeed even how to relax, don’t worry! This is where you get to have fun and be creative. If you’re not sure where your relaxation zone is then take this opportunity to try new things, have new experiences and just have plain good fun! What’s your favourite way to relax? Let us know in the comments below!