Anxiety and blood pressure are related in several ways. Though anxiety is not known to specifically lead to hypertension in the long term, it can cause blood pressure to spike to high levels for short periods as part of the body’s response to stressful situations. For those in chronically stressful situations, such as a high pressure job, this can mean repeated spikes in blood pressure; these types of repetitive elevations can cause significant damage to the body, leading to the same problems often associated with ongoing high blood pressure. Anxiety also often leads people to engage in lifestyle choices that can contribute to high blood pressure, such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. Some medication for anxiety can also raise blood pressure while a patient is taking it.
The primary link between anxiety and blood pressure is its tendency to cause temporary increases in pressure levels. These types of spikes, which can be severe, typically only last for a limited period but can have extreme effects on health if they occur repeatedly and frequently. The heart, blood vessels, and kidneys can all suffer extensive damage from this cycle of rapid increases and decreases in blood pressure. There is also the potential that the damage, particularly to the kidneys, can contribute to an overall increase in blood pressure.
Another way that anxiety and blood pressure are related is the fact that people who experience a significant amount of stress tend to pick up behaviors that are known to increase blood pressure. High anxiety can lead to excessive eating or eating unhealthy foods such as processed foods high in sugar, salt, and cholesterol, or both. Smoking and drinking, which are also linked to hypertension, are also common habits for those under ongoing high stress. High intake of caffeine can also cause blood pressure to spike temporarily, so those who use it heavily may cause additional damage to their system and may also actually feel more anxious based on their physical response to the chemical.
Anxiety and blood pressure may also be connected if a person is taking certain medications for his or her anxiety. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can raise blood pressure levels in some patients. Considering the other effects anxiety can have on one's blood pressure, it is important for people to understand if the drugs they are taking can also have an impact, and what can be done to deal with this.