Your Mental Health May Be Hurting Your Blood Pressure (and What You Can Do About It)

You know by now that heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S. — and for that reason, you should be taking your blood pressure seriously. The next time you’re seeing a doctor and they take your blood pressure reading, pay attention. Psychology Today reminds us hypertension occurs when your numbers are over 140/90 — the first number represents the force of your blood against your artery walls, and the second measures the pressure between the beats. If either number is higher than average, this can spell trouble.

You know eating right and exercising is key to a healthy heart — but it turns out your mental health can also have a lot to do with it.

Studies show depression and anxiety can lead to high blood pressure

Young sad man sitting by the window

Man looking depressed | Marjan_Apostolovic/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever been a heated argument that left your blood pressure soaring, you know how much your mental health can impact your heart. And according to HealthDay, several studies have noted that prolonged bouts of depression and anxiety can lead to consistent hypertensive levels.

The original study that was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in the 1970s tested 3,000 adults who had normal blood pressure levels. The researchers found those who had severe depression or anxiety at the beginning of the study were two to three times more likely than the others in the study to develop high blood pressure later in life.

Since this original study, others have been performed and showed similar results. New York Presbyterian Hospital also found those who had been through psychological trauma may also have an increased risk of developing chronic high blood pressure levels as well as other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and nausea.

How stress affects your heart

Even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental health issue, too much stress in general could mean bad news for your heart and blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic explains when you’re in a stressful situation, hormones flood your body and temporarily cause your heart to race. And though there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that chronic stress makes you more susceptible to hypertension, the stress may cause you to indulge in other unhealthy behaviors that can cause serious damage.

When you’re stressed, you may be more likely to turn to alcohol or partying to blow off steam. Additionally, this can affect your sleep and eating habits. If you’re eating fatty foods and living a generally unhealthy lifestyle, we know this has a direct impact on your heart and can lead to hypertension over time.

Steps you need to take

A therapist with a patient

A therapist with a patient | Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Taking steps to reduce stress and giving yourself a better quality of life can have a direct impact on your heart health. Here are a few guidelines you should follow, according to the Mayo Clinic:

Get in your daily exercise: Not only does exercise have a direct impact on your blood pressure, but it can also greatly help reduce your stress levels and improve your mental health. If you’re just starting out, try setting aside just 30 minutes per day for walking, stretching, or doing yoga. It may not seem like much at first, but it can have a lasting impact.

Take 15 minutes to breathe: When your schedule is jam-packed, the last activity you have time for is meditating. But finding 15 minutes to set aside just for deep breathing will help you reset your mind and prepare for everything else you have in store. You’ll feel much more relaxed after this quick meditation session — and your heart will thank you.

Plan your schedule in advance: Disorganization breeds stress and can fuel any mental health disorders you may already have. Grab a planner and schedule your day out in advance. That way, you know exactly when things need to get done and in what order you have to do them. Leave the latter half of your day for relaxing — and always leave room for at least eight hours of sleep.

See a therapist or psychiatrist:¬†Having trouble coping with trauma, sadness, or anxiety? Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. A therapist can help you talk out your issues, and if you need medication, a psychiatrist can help facilitate that process as well.

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