Last week we started a series on stress and how to manage it, we discussed on different types of stress we have and how we can manage our lifestyles and reduce the effect of stress in our lives. Today, we are going to be talking about the relationship between stress and hypertension.
STRESS AND HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure also called hypertension can indirectly be caused by stress. Little wonder why the word “tension” (in hypertension), “Pressure” (in high blood pressure) and stress are actually synonymous.
Amidst other predisposing factors causing hypertension; stress plays a major role. Stress can cause a sustained increase in the activity of the sympathetic nerve system. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated; it floods the blood with cortisol and adrenaline accelerate the heart rate constricting blood vessels and increasing blood pressure.
I am sure there is someone there reading this write up that is asking this question, “What is cortisol?” Well, did not mean to skip that. Let me tell you what it is.
CORTISOL AND HYPERTENSION
Cortisol is the only human glucocorticoid essential for the normal blood pressure and in excess either general or local produces hypertension (Kelly, mangos et al, 1998). Cortisol constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure to enhance the delivery of oxygenated blood which is advantageous for fight and flight situations. Overtimes, such arterial constriction can lead to high blood pressure.
Study shows that risk for coronary heart disease is three to five times greater in people with high levels of anger, anxiety and worry compare to people who report lower levels. On the other hand, the dissipation through either exercise helps to bring blood pressure back to normal levels.
So emotional stress as against physical stressors (like exercise) helps release stress hormones which in turn increases blood pressure. (Excerpts from The Cortisol Connection by Shawn .M. Tabott)
Well there is this other stress factor that causes a major risk to the heart predisposing this wonderful organ of life to hypertension. I call it cell stress and inner stress. It is called oxidative stress.
OXIDATIVE STRESS AND HYPERTENSION
According to Wikipedia, “Oxidative stress reflects an imbalance between the systematic manifestation of reactive oxygen species and a biological systems ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or to repair the resulting damage”
Causes of oxidative stress include air pollution, dehydration, and geophysical stress like living near power lines or waste dumps, food preservatives, psychological and emotional stress.
The supplementation of antioxidants, particularly in the form of fresh fruit and vegetables reduces blood pressure, supporting a role for free radicals in hypertension. Synthetic (non-natural) antioxidants are not an alternative to regular consumption of fruits and vegetables. Complete rescue of the exogenous antioxidants regarding oxidative stress does not occur because specific synthetic antioxidants cannot penetrate the blood brain barrier and are thus poorly absorbed and are converted to pro-oxidants under certain physiological conditions.
Well, the conclusion of the whole matter is that stress is a predisposing factor to hypertension either through increased cortisol level from emotional stress or from oxidative stress.
So my dear readers, you do not want to get an elevated blood pressure beyond the normal levels, then you would have to help yourself with less anxiety and anger and eat more fruits to provide yourself with adequate natural antioxidants.
I am stepping out this week by saying “Have fruitful days by eating fruits, worrying less and with less anger.”