Reading time: ±2 min.
Did you know that stress can temporarily raise blood pressure and increase the risk of hypertension? Understanding the connection between mental health and hypertension will help to lower your risk.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the pressure of the blood flowing through your blood vessels and pushing against the walls of your arteries increases and remains raised for a prolonged time. It’s normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, and even occasionally spike outside of the healthy 120/80 range.
Untreated hypertension increases your risk of hypertensive-associated complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and cognitive decline.
These short-term spikes are often harmless, but chronic stress and other mental health issues could lead to hypertension.
And according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, mental health disorders – particularly severe depression and anxiety – can also increase the risk of developing hypertension.
The link between mental health and hypertension
- Stress-related chemicals such as cortisol increase blood pressure and heart rate. And the more stressed you are, the more cortisol and adrenaline are released from your adrenal glands.
- Mental health conditions could lead to unhealthy coping techniques, such as drinking alcohol excessively, smoking or eating unhealthy foods laden with fat and salt, which could elevate blood pressure.
- Those with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may isolate themselves. This could cause them not to seek out medical treatment for hypertension or contribute towards them not taking medication.
- In some instances, medications used to treat mental health conditions, such as Bupropion, Methylphenidate and Venlafaxine, may increase your risk of developing hypertension due to some of the side effects.
The converse is also true since hypertension can affect mental health. The hormones involved in blood pressure regulation can negatively affect the body’s ability to regulate mood, increasing the risk of mental health conditions.
Chronic, untreated hypertension can result in ‘vascular dementia’ where mental processes such as memory and judgement are impaired. Some medications used to treat hypertension may also cause depression in rare cases.
Managing hypertension and mental health
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, reducing stress and managing mental health conditions could lower the risk of developing hypertension. Here are a few ways to manage both:
- If you suspect that you have chronic stress or another mental health condition, talk to your doctor, who can then refer you to a mental health expert.
- If you have a mental health condition, follow your doctor’s recommendations. Take your medication exactly as prescribed and stick to your appointments. If you need extra help adhering to your treatment regimen, ask a loved one to hold you accountable.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week. Yoga and meditation are particularly good for managing mental health and stress. Plus it may also help regulate blood pressure to keep it at a healthy level.
- If you struggle with stress and often feel overwhelmed, try to simplify your schedule, if possible. Review your to-do lists regularly and reorder them according to priority.
- Regularly practise deep breathing, as it helps to reduce stress and can contribute towards better-quality sleep.
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol intake or any other stimulants, such as smoking. Ensure that you get enough sleep – if you require assistance with this, speak to your doctor.
For more hypertension-related advice, read these helpful articles:
The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.
- Reviewed by Dr John Torline, a psychiatrist based at Life St Vincent’s
- Woolston, C. (2019). Depression and High Blood Pressure. [online] HealthDay. Available at: https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/depression-12/depression-news-176/depression-and-high-blood-pressure-644943.html [Accessed 14 March 2021]
- HelpGuide. (2020). Blood Pressure and Your Brain. [online] Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/blood-pressure-and-your-brain.htm#:~:text=Stress%20can%20increase%20the%20body’s,also%20elevate%20your%20blood%20pressure [Accessed 19 March 2021]
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Stress and High Blood Pressure: What’s the Connection? [online] Mayo Clinic. Available at:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/stress-and-high-blood-pressure/art-20044190 [Accessed 14 March 2021]