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Christmas is a joyous time for family and friends to get together and share delicious meals and memories. Christmas can, for some, also be a stressful time and with this added stress, the risk of hypertension and an elevated reading may be present. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can damage your heart, major organs and arteries over time. This damage can increase your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. How can stress impact hypertension and what can you do to reduce it?
It’s normal for your blood pressure to increase for a short time if you’re feeling stressed, said the British Heart Foundation.
The health site continued: “When you’re stressed your body releases hormones like adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone.
“Adrenaline makes your heartbeat faster and your blood pressure rise as a way of helping your body cope with the situation.
“Once stress has passed, your blood pressure should go back to normal.
“Unhealthy habits linked to stress, like eating unhealthily and drinking too much alcohol can cause long-term high blood pressure.”
In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, stress and hypertension was investigated.
The study noted: “Genetic and behavioural factors do not fully explain the development of hypertension, and there is increasing evidence suggesting that psychosocial factors may also play an important role.
“Exposure to chronic stress has been hypothesized as a risk factor for hypertension, and occupational stress, stressful aspects of the social environment, and low socioeconomic status have each been studied extensively.
“Social relationships are important sources of emotional and practical support and can buffer the negative physical and psychological effects of stress.
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“The lack of supportive relationships not only leaves one without these resources but can itself be a major source of stress.
“Social isolation, defined in terms of the size and composition of the social network (eg, marital status, number of close friends and relatives, religious or other group affiliations) has been prospectively associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
“On the other hand, relationships can be a source of conflict, and the stress associated with unhappy or strained marriages has been associated with negative cardiovascular effects.
“Overall, there is growing empirical support for the hypothesis that exposure to chronic psychosocial stress contributes to the development of hypertension.”
What experts say
Dr Michael Kayal, a cardiologist at Geisenger Medical Centre said everyone feels stress at different times in their life.
But he added: “It’s when those pressures go unaddressed and build up over time that we’re left with chronic stress which can show up in the body as physical symptoms.
“Elevated blood pressure is a common side effect of stress.
“And because high blood pressure doesn’t typically cause symptoms, when it happens, we often have no idea.”
How to lower your stress and reduce hypertension risk
The Mayo Clinic listed a few options to help lower your stress levels which include:
Simplify your schedule. If you always feel rushed, take a few minutes to review your calendar and to-do lists. Look for activities that take up your time but aren’t very important to you. Schedule less time for these activities or eliminate them completely.
Breathe to relax. Taking deep and slow breaths can help you relax.
Exercise. Physical activity is a natural stress buster. Just be sure to get your doctor’s OK before starting a new exercise program, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Try yoga and meditation. Yoga and meditation strengthen your body and help you relax. These techniques also may lower your systolic blood pressure by 5 mm Hg or more.
Get plenty of sleep. Too little sleep can make your problems seem worse than they really are.
Shift your perspective. When dealing with problems, resist the tendency to complain. Acknowledge your feelings about the situation, and then focus on finding solutions.
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