Stress and Hypertension

Are stress and hypertension related?

Modern lifestyles are becoming more stressful.

If you are living a stressful life you could be elevating your blood pressure.

But this does not mean that if you have been diagnosed with hypertension that you are stressed.

But does stress cause hypertension?

At present scientists are not certain of the link between chronic stress and hypertension.

There are a number of ways that stress is associated with hypertension but the impact of stress on hypertension is less certain.

Here we examine the possible connection between hypertension and stress.

Are stress and hypertension connected?

Stress and hypertension could be related in any number of ways.

This includes:

  • increase blood flow and constriction of arteries that increase blood pressure
  • the release of the stress hormone cortisol
  • the secretion of vassopressin

Increased blood flow and artery constriction.

When your fight or flight response is activated the heart pumps blood to the muscles of the body.

You may notice that your heart is pounding in your chest as you prepare to fight or flee from the aggressor. These are common symptoms of stress!

stress and hypertension

At the same time, your body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline.

These stress hormones further stimulate the heart. They constrict the vessels and increasing blood pressure against the arterial walls.

Stress and high blood pressure increase.

But when the stress passes blood pressure returns to normal.

But everyday we are bombarded with daily hassles, traffic jams, irate bosses or crunching deadlines.

This chronic stress means that the stress response is constantly activated.

These continual spikes in high blood pressure may be implicated in chronic hypertension!

Stress and hypertension: Cortisol.

One of the stress hormones is cortisol.

Cortisol and stress affect the body in a number of ways and may increase hypertension.

When stressed your body secretes cortisol.

Cortisol inhibits the breakdown of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline (thereby making it difficult to relax).

At the same time cortisol increases the amount of cholesterol in the blood. I talk more about stress and cholesterol.

As cholesterol increases there is increased risk that plaque forms on the artery walls.

This reduces the space that the blood travels through and increases blood pressure.

If you can imagine watering your garden with the hose.

To reach the plants at the back of the garden you may need to cover the opening of the hose with your finger.

This increases the pressure of the water coming out.

Well the same with plaque build up on the artery walls.

As the same amount of blood tries to get through a smaller and smaller opening (as the plaque builds up on the walls of the artery and reduces the diameter of the artery) blood pressure will increase.

This may be one link between stress and hypertension and stress and heart disease.

Stress and hypertension: Vassopressin.

Vassopressin is an anti diuretic hormone.

The main role of vassopressin is to regulate fluid loss in the urinary tract by absorbing water or by reducing perspiration.

This means that vassopressin alters the volume of blood pumped through the heart, which impacts blood pressure.

Under stress vassopressin increases and this increases blood pressure and the risk of hypertension.

How Does Stress Affect Health?

Stress increases your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease but it also affects health in a number of other ways:
Stress weight gain
Intestinal gas
Stress and hair loss
Irritable bowel syndrome
Stress and cancer


Other causes of hypertension

Blood pressure is measured by a sphygmomanometer.

While scientists are not agreed over what is normal blood pressure, they generally agree that a blood pressure reading of over 140/90 can be considered as hypertension.

In other words hypertension occurs when systolic blood pressure (the blood pressure on the arterial walls on contraction of the heart) is over 140 or diastolic blood pressure (the blood pressure on the arterial walls when the heart is at rest) is over 90.

Doctors only know the direct causes for about 10% of all hypertension cases.

These 10% of hypertension cases can be put down to factors such as:

  • chronic kidney disease
  • some adrenal gland diseases
  • genetic factors
  • taking birth control pills
  • pregnancy
  • addiction to alcohol and
  • thyroid dysfunction.

This means that 90% of hypertension causes are not known!

This is called essential hypertension.

While the specific cause of essential hypertension may not be known, there are a number of factors that contribute to high blood pressure.

Some of these can be changed and some cannot be changed.

Non-changing factors that contribute to hypertension include:

  • Hypertension in the elderly. As you get older your blood pressure tends to increase.

    As your arteries stiffen (possibly as a result of atherosclerosis - see stress and heart disease) the systolic blood pressure for elderly may increase.

  • Race. Black Americans have a higher blood pressure than white Americans.

    Those with the lowest blood pressure are white females.

  • Family history. Hypertension tends to run in families.
  • Gender. Men tend to have higher blood pressure than women.

Changing factors that contribute to hypertension include:

  • Obesity and hypertension. Many public health programs focus on the reducing obesity as a means to reduce hypertension and associated heart disease.

    Obese people have higher blood pressure and many doctors advise losing weight as a means to control hypertension.

  • Salt and hypertension. Salt can cause your blood pressure to go up.
  • The daily recommended salt intake is about 5g, yet Americans consume at least 2-4 times that on an average day.

    Often reducing sodium intake is not just a matter of dropping the salt shaker out of your diet.

    Many processed foods also include sodium. Read your labels on various food items and avoid those with excess sodium levels.

  • Exercise and hypertension. Living a life of sedentary activities can be associated with increased risk of hypertension.

    Exercise can help to reduce high blood pressure.

How does stress affect health: Related stress management articles

stress headaches Stress Headaches

Cure Stress Headaches Without Medication

stress and the immune system Stress and the Immune System

Manage Stress and Improve Immune Functioning


More stress management articles on "how does stress affect health?"

Migraine Headache Relief: Cure Migraine Headaches without Side Effects

What is TMJ Syndrome: What is TMJ and TMJ Symptoms

Pain and Stress Reduction: Chronic Pain and Stress Management Techniques



Related Articles on Stress and Health

stress headaches Stress Headaches

Cure Stress Headaches Without Medication

stress and the immune system Stress and the Immune System

Manage Stress and Improve Immune Functioning


More stress management articles on "how does stress affect health?"

Migraine Headache Relief: Cure Migraine Headaches without Side Effects

Stress and Heart Disease: How Stress is Related to Coronary Heart Disease

What is TMJ Syndrome: What is TMJ and TMJ Symptoms

Stress Weight Gain: Can Stress Make You Fat?

Stress and Hair Loss: Can Stress Make You Bald?

Intestinal Gas: Stress and Intestinal Gas

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Stress and IBS




Click here to return from stress and hypertension to how does stress affect health

Click here to return from stress and hypertension to the stress management homepage

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.