High blood pressure: ‘Too much stress may contribute’ to increased levels

Dr Chris Steele shares diet tips on reducing blood pressure

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often dubbed the “silent killer” as it does not have noticeable symptoms. Around a third of adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many will not realise it, according to the NHS. Although symptoms are tough to spot, there are several risk factors to be aware of. If it is not spotted and treated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Blood pressure is defined as the force put on your blood vessels and organs as blood is pumped around your body by your heart.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure, higher number, is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure, lower number, is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels.

The NHS says: “Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you do not take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.”

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Heart UK says: “Stress is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But too much stress may contribute to increased blood pressure.

“Also, too much stress can encourage behaviours that increase blood pressure, such as poor diet, physical inactivity, and using tobacco or drinking alcohol more than usual.”

The NHS says: “Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.
Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope.

“People have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else.”

NHS Inform says: “Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it isn’t addressed. It’s important to recognise the symptoms of stress early.

“Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking.”

According to the NHS there are a number of other risk factors for high blood pressure too. Some of these are not modifiable. For example, your family history, age and ethnicity can all put you at higher risk.

There are, however, some modifiable factors that can put a person at higher risk.

If you are a smoker, do not exercise enough, drink too much alcohol or coffee, your risk may be increased.

“Making healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure and help lower your blood pressure if it’s already high,” the NHS states.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

The NHS recommends that all adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. Nonetheless, a healthy blood pressure reading is not relative to your age.

As well as reducing the amount of salt you eat and having a generally healthy diet, you should cut back on alcohol, lose weight if you’re overweight, cut down on caffeine, and if you are a smoker you should stop smoking.

The British Heart Foundation states many people with high blood pressure feel fine, “so it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly”.

The charity says physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

The NHS says: “Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure over time.”

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