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Understanding the Impact of Stress on Blood Pressure

2 min read

In a fast-paced business world, stress management is critical to heart health.  

It’s common knowledge that stress releases a surge of hormones as a coping mechanism. These hormones cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow, causing an increase blood pressure. 

While the link between stress and long-term high blood pressure is still being studied, the continual fluctuations of stress-related blood pressure spikes are hard on the heart and blood vessels.

February is heart month, designed to raise awareness for heart health and heart disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, causing more deaths than all forms of cancer combined. In men, the risk for heart attack increases significantly after the age of 45. In women, heart attacks are more likely to occur after the age of 50.

Knowing the risks for heart disease can help save your life. One of the most common risks is uncontrolled high blood pressure, and in Arkansas, almost 30% of individuals are living with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Know Your Numbers

American Heart Association  guidelines state that anyone with blood pressure higher than 130/80 on a regular basis will be considered to have hypertension, or high blood pressure. 

High blood pressure means the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is consistently too high. As a result, the heart has to work harder to pump blood. The higher the numbers, the higher the risk for heart health issues.

Symptoms and Risks

High blood pressure usually doesn’t have warning signs, meaning you may not know you have it.  

Risk factors include:

  • Age – the risk increases as you get older 
  • Family history of high blood pressure 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being physically active
  • High-salt diet
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress

Lifestyle Changes Matter

Having high blood pressure does not always mean that you need to start taking medications. Changing your lifestyle is always the first step in prevention and treatment.

Some recommendations: 

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Exercise (even an increase in steps can be a way to improve your heart health)
  • Cut down on salt intake 
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet (which includes making smart choices when eating out)
  • Get adequate rest
  • Manage your stress 

Some stress-management tips:

  • Prioritize work-life balance
  • Plan your day 
  • Realize interruptions will happen
  • Be willing to ask for help when you need it
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Deep breathing exercises

Take charge of your heart health and work with your primary care doctor or cardiologist to manage your blood pressure and discuss your potential risks.

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