Does blood pressure increase with stress

Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure

The importance of stress management

In today’s fast-paced world filled with increasing demands, stress management is a life skill and a lifesaver. It’s also important to note that while the link between stress and high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is still being studied, stress is known to contribute to risk factors like a poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption.

How stress affects your health

In addition to the emotional discomfort we feel when faced with a stressful situation, our bodies react by releasing stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the blood. These hormones prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response by making the heart beat faster and constricting blood vessels to get more blood to the core of the body instead of the extremities.

Constriction of blood vessels and increase in heart rate does raise blood pressure, but only temporarily — when the stress reaction goes away, blood pressure returns to its pre-stress level. This is called situational stress, and its effects are generally short-lived and disappear when the stressful event is over.

“Fight or flight” is a valuable response when we are faced with an imminent threat that we can handle by confronting or fleeing. However, our modern world contains many stressful events that we can’t handle with those options. Chronic (constant) stress causes our bodies to go into high gear on and off for days or weeks at a time. The links between chronic stress and blood pressure are not clear and are still being studied.

Stress versus anxiety

Stress is a lifestyle factor and, to a certain extent, a fact of life. Each of us also has a certain level of anxiety. On the other hand, chronic anxiety and anxiety disorders are medically diagnosed conditions, which can be impacted by stress.

Fight stress with healthy habits

Learn to fight stress by making choices like talking with family and friends and making time for physical activity. These habits not only improve your health — they also rejuvenate your general well-being.

Reduce stress by changing your expectations

Give yourself enough time to get things done.

Time management works wonders for reducing stress. Don’t try to pack too much into every moment.

Learn to say “no.” Don’t promise too much.

Reduce the amount of tension by having a shorter list of items that must be done. This may require you to reevaluate priorities and make difficult choices, but everyone must learn to live within manageable limits.

Reduce stress by recognizing where you have control

You can’t control all the outside events in your life.

However, you can change how you handle them emotionally and psychologically. Try to learn to accept things you can’t change. You don't have to solve all of life’s problems.

Think about problems under your control and make a plan to solve them.

You could talk to your boss about difficulties at work, talk with your neighbor if his dog bothers you or get help when you have too much to do.

Know your stress triggers.

Think ahead about what may upset you. Some things you can avoid. For example, spend less time with people who bother you or avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.

Reduce stress by taking care of your mood

Relaxing is important.

Even if you are busy, take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful picture.

Spend time developing supportive and nurturing relationships.

We all need supportive and encouraging relationships. Invest yourself in developing relationships that build character and foster growth.

Give yourself the gift of a healthy lifestyle.

Engage in physical activity regularly. Do what you enjoy; walk, swim, ride a bike or jog to get your muscles going. Letting go of the tension in your body will help you feel better.

Limit alcohol, don’t overeat and don’t smoke.

Relaxing for short periods during your workday, at night and on weekends may help lower your blood pressure. Another great stress-buster is to get regular physical activity.

Reduce stress by practicing gratitude and joy

Practice gratitude.

Change how you respond to difficult situations, focusing on the positive, not the negative. Expressing gratitude to others can also boost your level of feeling good about life and reduce stressful thoughts.

Know what brings you pleasure and find ways to enjoy the experience.

Perhaps you enjoy volunteer opportunities or cooking your favorite foods. By taking time not only to participate in these activities but to intentionally enjoy them, you can build a satisfying life rather than hurry through your “relaxing activities” at a stressful pace. 

  • Download a fact sheet on managing stress (PDF)

Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.

Last Reviewed: Oct 31, 2016

Stress and hypertension - PubMed


. 1998 Dec;97(11):34-8.

S Kulkarni  1 , I O'Farrell, M Erasi, M S Kochar



  • 1 Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.
  • PMID: 9894438


S Kulkarni et al. WMJ. 1998 Dec.

. 1998 Dec;97(11):34-8.


S Kulkarni  1 , I O'Farrell, M Erasi, M S Kochar


  • 1 Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.
  • PMID: 9894438


Stress can cause hypertension through repeated blood pressure elevations as well as by stimulation of the nervous system to produce large amounts of vasoconstricting hormones that increase blood pressure. Factors affecting blood pressure through stress include white coat hypertension, job strain, race, social environment, and emotional distress. Furthermore, when one risk factor is coupled with other stress producing factors, the effect on blood pressure is multiplied. Overall, studies show that stress does not directly cause hypertension, but can have an effect on its development. A variety of non-pharmacologic treatments to manage stress have been found effective in reducing blood pressure and development of hypertension, examples of which are meditation, acupressure, biofeedback and music therapy. Recent results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that 50 million American adults have hypertension (defined to be a systolic blood pressure of greater than 139 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure of greater than 89 mm Hg). In 95% of these cases, the cause of hypertension is unknown and they are categorized as "essential" hypertension. Although a single cause may not be identified, the general consensus is that various factors contribute to blood pressure elevation in essential hypertension. In these days of 70 hour work weeks, pagers, fax machines, and endless committee meetings, stress has become a prevalent part of people's lives; therefore the effect of stress on blood pressure is of increasing relevance and importance. Although stress may not directly cause hypertension, it can lead to repeated blood pressure elevations, which eventually may lead to hypertension. In this article we explore how stress can cause hypertension and what can be done about it.

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Publication types

MeSH terms

Stress and arterial hypertension

Stress is the eternal companion of our life. It arises as a result of excessive nervous and mental stress, despondency, lack of positive prospects or a state of uncertainty. Stress is multifaceted in its manifestations. It plays an important role in the occurrence of not only disorders of human mental activity, but also a number of diseases.

Indeed, mental stress causes an increase in the release of hormones that increase vascular tone, increase cardiac output, accelerate heart contractions and, as a result, lead to an increase in blood pressure. nine0003

Stress is a factor provoking the development of arterial hypertension.

How can you tell if stress is having a negative effect on you? There are many signs, and they are all different in their manifestations.

All alarms can be divided into four categories:

Physical - dizziness, clenched jaws, headaches, indigestion, tense muscles, impaired sleep, palpitations, tinnitus, slouching posture, sweating of the palms, fatigue, exhaustion, trembling, weight gain or loss. nine0003

Psychological - worries and fears, difficulty in making decisions, forgetfulness, pessimism, devastation.

Emotional - a manifestation of anger, aggression, tearfulness, a feeling of powerlessness, frequent mood changes, irritability, a feeling of loneliness, negative thinking, nervousness, longing.

Behavioral - alcohol, drugs, overeating, changing jobs and even places of residence, if this is possible.

nine0002 Stress management is a useful skill that every modern person needs. It is very important to learn how to cope with stress yourself and protect yourself from its consequences, including such as arterial hypertension.

How to overcome stress:

  • Use your time wisely (decide on the main tasks, and then assign a time for each of them and fix them, for example, in your notebook. After that, you can plan the rest of the tasks and assign time for them in between the main tasks). nine0026
  • Avoid negative assumptions (eg “everything always goes wrong with me”, “I can’t do this”, etc. ) and tune in to a positive outcome (eg “I can do this”, “I can do it” etc.).
  • Analyze the causes of your anxiety. After you understand what the true cause is, think about how to minimize or completely eliminate the existing irritant.
  • Avoid bad habits, they only exacerbate the presence of problems. nine0026
  • Take rest breaks. Breaks should be taken not only during work, but also on weekends. In particular, make sure you get good sleep.
  • Maintain positive relationships with other people.
  • Go in for sports. At the preparation stage, you should undergo a medical examination, which will allow you to answer the following questions: What kind of sport is optimal for you? What is the maximum allowable load? Physical activity should be dosed. Sports should be done 3-4 times a week. The recommended duration of one workout is 30-60 minutes. The load should be increased gradually. nine0026
  • Take proportionate responsibility. Don't take on things you can't handle.
  • Set realistic goals in life.

How to learn to relax.

Muscle relaxation. Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling slowly. Mentally "walk" through your body. Pay attention to areas of stress. Relax your muscles. Slowly turn your head to the sides one or two times. Roll your shoulders back and forth. Then breathe deeply again. You should feel relaxed. nine0003

Psychological relaxation. This is also a very important moment of relaxation. Learn to imagine yourself in pleasant places: whether it is a quiet forest, a calm sea or mountains. This allows you to relax.

Relaxing music. Find quiet calm instrumental music in the store or on the Internet. Currently, there is such music on the market, specially created for this purpose.

Pressure and stress /

  • What is stress? nine0057
  • Pressure increase in response to stress as an adaptation
  • Increased blood pressure due to chronic stress or adaptation failure
  • How to correctly assess the level of your pressure during stress?

What is stress?

According to the classical definition, stress in medicine is usually called a non-specific reaction of the body that occurs as a response to the action of various physical factors and strong emotions (stressors) that threaten to disrupt the stable state of the body, and leading to characteristic changes in the nervous and endocrine systems. nine0003

It is widely believed that stress is always bad for a person. But in fact, stress performs the most important protective and adaptive function, launches processes that allow you to survive a stressful situation with the least losses, to emerge victorious from it. The only real danger is repetitive, chronic stress [1].

This difference is clearly visible if we consider the effect of stress on blood pressure as an example.

Increasing pressure in response to stress as an adaptation

Consider the classic situation where a person needs to publicly present and then discuss a project with colleagues.

The feeling of excitement and emotional tension grows, the body reacts to this by releasing many hormones. Adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol lead to an increase in heart rate, increased pressure, increased blood flow, and an increase in blood glucose levels. Such changes lead to an improvement in the blood supply to the brain, it absorbs an increased amount of glucose and oxygen from the blood, increases concentration, concentration, increases the speed of reaction, which means that a person becomes maximally collected and ready to answer any question [2]. At the same time, in a healthy person, the pressure will be within acceptable limits, not higher than 140/90.

After some time, the discussion of the project ends, the stress factor disappears and the body returns to its original state. In a few hours, the heart rate decreases, blood pressure normalizes [3]. Thus, with the help of stress, the body successfully adapted to the situation, and then returned to a stable state (homeostasis).

Such a short-term increase in pressure can be harmful only if a person suffers from hypertension or other chronic diseases. nine0003

Increased blood pressure due to chronic stress or failure of adaptation

Suppose that the same person has a "black" streak in his life. First, the child messed up at school, and had to go to the director, then an icicle fell on the car and broke through the roof, and then the neighbors also flooded the apartment. Because of this, the next day he was late for work, having received a scolding from his superiors. A day later, his previously approved project was curtailed due to lack of funding, and he was transferred to remote work due to the pandemic, depriving him of the opportunity to see his beloved colleagues live. nine0003

Such a series of stressful effects did not allow the body to fully recover, which led to a chronic increase in the level of cortisol, corticosterone and mineralocorticoid hormones in the blood, and these hormones, in turn, contributed to maintaining high blood pressure for a long time [5, 7]. As a result, there was a breakdown in adaptation, the body began to consider constantly elevated pressure as the norm, and baroceptors responsible for regulating pressure and various body systems responsible for homeostasis adapted to this level [4]. A step was taken towards the development of hypertension. nine0003

It is these people who often turn to therapists with complaints such as “jumping pressure from nerves” or “constant headache at work”. After all, any additional stress factor will cause a further increase in the already elevated level of blood pressure, leading to the development of unpleasant symptoms and the risk of a hypertensive crisis [9].

How to correctly assess the level of your pressure during stress?

It is best to measure pressure with an accurate automatic blood pressure monitor in a sitting position, after resting for 10-15 minutes. nine0003

During a stressful event and 2-4 hours after it, elevated blood pressure may be recorded [9]. However, if a person does not experience severe discomfort, and the numbers do not exceed 140-150 units of systolic (“upper”) pressure and 100 units of diastolic (“lower”) pressure, then this condition can be attributed to the normal variant during adaptation to stress.

If the pressure remains high for more than 6 hours, symptoms such as headache, dizziness, tinnitus, blurred vision, nausea are observed, it makes sense to call an ambulance or see a doctor. Also, the reason for going to the doctor can be constantly high blood pressure for several days or the appearance of similar symptoms during any emotional experiences [8]. nine0003

The best way to control your condition is with the help of an observation diary, briefly describing what exactly led to the increase in pressure, to what level it rose and what were the symptoms. Such a diary will greatly help the specialist to choose and prescribe the right treatment. It is most convenient to keep such a diary when the tonometer has a memory function and remembers the results of the last measurements.

1. Bobkov A.I., Reshetnyak D.V., Nikushkin E.V. On compensated and decompensated hormonal and biochemical disorders in clinical stress. Klin. lab. diag. – 2009. No. 9, pp. 42–43
2. Buijs, R. M., & Van Eden, C. G. (2000). The integration of stress by the hypothalamus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex: balance between the autonomic nervous system and the neuroendocrine system. Cognition, Emotion and
3. Autonomic Responses: The Integrative Role of the Prefrontal Cortex and Limbic Structures, 117–132.
4. Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI journal, 16, 1057–1072. nine0057
5. McEwen B.S. (2006). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators: central role of the brain. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(4), 367–381.
6. Ostroumova, O. D., & Kochetkov, A. I. (2018). Worksite hypertension as a model of stress-induced arterial hypertension. Terapevticheskii arkhiv, 90(9), 123–132.
7. Strizhakov, L. A., Babanov, S. A., Lebedeva, M. V., Moiseev, S. V., & Fomin, V. V. (2018). Arterial hypertension at the workplace: risk factors and the population value. Terapevticheskii archiv, 90(9), 138–143.
8. Antonov, E. V., Markel', A. L., & Yakobson, G. S. (2011). Aldosterone and stress-dependent arterial hypertension. Bulletin of experimental biology and medicine, 152(2), 188–191.
9. Akagi, S., Matsubara, H., Nakamura, K., & Ito, H. (2018). Modern treatment to reduce pulmonary arterial pressure in pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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