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Are High Blood Pressure and Anxiety Disorders Linked?

There seems to be a common belief that high blood pressure is related to emotional factors such as stress and anxiety that a person feels.  However, this is often not the cause of elevated blood pressure in most people.  Whilst there does seem to be a link between high blood pressure and anxiety there are many other factors that can impact on a persons blood pressure levels.

There are considered to be two categories of hypertension (high blood pressure), they are essential or primary, and secondary high blood pressure.  Secondary, as the name suggests is hypertension that is caused by a recognizable medical condition like kidney disease.

Essential (or primary) hypertension is usually only diagnosed once investigation has determined there is no medical condition present that could trigger the elevated blood pressure levels.

There are considered to be a number of risk factors associated with hypertension, and they include some factors that cannot be changed including:

How old a person is
A person’s race, African Americans have greater risk of elevated blood pressure than Caucasians.
If there is a family history of hypertension

There are also other risks that have been identified, including:

Being overweight or obese
Being Diabetic
Eating a diet high in salt or a saturated fat
Inactivity and / or poor fitness levels
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
High levels of stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can trigger our fight or flight response.  This is the response that allowed our ancestors to run from danger or heighten their reactions to fight wild animals.

Not much has changed, and when faced with stressful situation or one that makes us anxious we secrete epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol.  And it is these hormones that increase blood pressure by increasing the speed the heart beats and constricting the blood vessels

So, it is believed that anxiety can raise the blood pressure levels in short spikes, but that they will then return to normal.  However, there can be problems with people who have anxiety disorders or depression, as if these spikes happen to often (due to an over reactive nervous system potentially) then damage can occur in the same way as hypertension that is caused by other risk factors.

So, the risk of damaged blood vessels, kidney and heart problems increase over time if the person continues to be faced with conditions, which elevate their blood pressure.

Also, people who suffer with depression or a General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may turn to certain crutches to help them cope with a stressful situation. Including eating excessively, or choosing the wrong foods, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol, which can of course increase the risk of higher blood pressure and heart problems.

Many people have witnessed the effect of anxiety or stress, when ‘White Coat’ Hypertension effects them.  Elevated blood pressure can occur when a patient is visiting their doctor and their blood pressure when read is consistently higher than when they have taken a reading in a non-stressful environment.   In fact in studies carried out it has been suggested that as many as 10-20% of all patients will experience ‘White Coat’ Hypertension. 

So, it seems clear that a connection can be made between a person suffering from high blood pressure and anxiety.  However, anxiety is usually not the main factor causing the elevated high blood pressure, it just contributes to it.

Take a look at this post - Handling High Blood Pressure and Anxiety -  for suggestions on ways to overcome anxiety.

Plus, if you haven’t already done so, sign up for the free Relieve Blood Pressure Newsletter and discover new and natural methods to manage high blood pressure. In the newsletter you’ll also find other ways to lower blood pressure along with more information on how to manage potential hypertension complications like the link between high blood pressure and anxiety.

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