What Is the Connection between Blood Pressure and Stress?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
The brachial artery is commonly used to take blood pressure measurements.
The brachial artery is commonly used to take blood pressure measurements.

Blood pressure and stress are directly related because any kind of stressful situation in life leads to a temporary increase in blood pressure as part of the body’s emergency response system. If a person spends his whole life dealing with constant stressful situations, it is likely that his blood pressure will always be higher than it should be, but experts aren’t sure if stress has any effect on someone’s normal relaxed blood pressure on an everyday basis, including times when there is no stress present. There is some evidence that stress may cause some increased risks of things like heart disease, but the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear and many scientists are unconvinced that there is really a direct connection. Overall, experts generally agree that stress is a potential danger for blood pressure-related problems, even if the reasons aren’t clear, and most suggest that people should look for ways to reduce stress in their lives when possible.

Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks.
Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks.

The primary way that blood pressure and stress are connected is due to the body’s reaction to stressful situations. When people become afraid, nervous, or overly excited, the body releases various hormones to prepare itself for action. These cause an increase in pulse rate and blood pressure to help prepare the muscles for action. In extreme events where a person’s life is on the line, these reactions help bring physical performance to an absolute peak level and might potentially be life-saving. In normal day-to-day life, smaller stresses, like bills or a tough day on the job, can also cause this sort of reaction, but in these cases, it’s not necessarily all that useful.

Chronic stress hampers the body's ability to fight fatigue and disease.
Chronic stress hampers the body's ability to fight fatigue and disease.

There are some other reasons why blood pressure and stress might be related, but scientists aren’t sure exactly how they work and the connection is a bit less direct. For example, when people become stressed, sometimes they decide to consume food as a way of relaxing. This consumption of food causes the person to gain weight, which eventually results in an increase in blood pressure. The person may also have anxiety about his appearance and health after gaining weight, which adds more stress to his life and might potentially lead to higher blood pressure, at least part of the time.

With all the different potential connections between blood pressure and stress, many people choose to remove as much stress from their lives as possible. Doctors recommend that people should get a good night’s sleep if possible, eat a healthier diet, and look for ways to remove stressful tasks from their lives or at least reduce the amount of time spent doing things that lead to intense stress. Exercise is also considered a good outlet for stressful feelings, and many people find that it helps them sleep better at night and lose weight, potentially making it especially helpful for those dealing with blood pressure and stress.

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    • The brachial artery is commonly used to take blood pressure measurements.
      The brachial artery is commonly used to take blood pressure measurements.
    • Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks.
      Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks.
    • Chronic stress hampers the body's ability to fight fatigue and disease.
      Chronic stress hampers the body's ability to fight fatigue and disease.