Does Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure?

Anxiety has both short-term and long-term impacts on our health. But what about impacts to blood pressure (also known as hypertension)? First, it helps to know that anxiety is a broad term that can denote someone having an occasional intense fear reaction on one side of the spectrum, and a life-altering disorder needing treatment on the other side of the spectrum. Not all anxiety is related to a disorder, however, and some anxieties come up as a normal part of life (via Mayo Clinic). For the latter, any kind of stress that comes up in your everyday life can provoke a surge of hormones, signaling danger to your body. These hormones are responsible for causing your heart to beat faster, thus increasing your blood pressure, via Mayo Clinic. While researchers don't fully understand the mechanisms behind anxiety and high blood pressure, there are certain lifestyle factors that can increase one's risk of high blood pressure, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and poor eating habits.

Anxiety and heart health

High blood pressure (hypertension) has several health factors at play when it comes to determining its etiology. Broadly speaking, anxiety and stress tend to point to negative impacts to overall heart health, and researchers believe certain medical conditions like anxiety and depression can increase one's risk for hypertension. Interestingly, the hormone surge that occurs during anxiety can cause damage to your arteries (via Mayo Clinic). While that damage hasn't been definitively proven to be a result of high blood pressure itself, researchers are finding links between anxiety and hypertension, like this 2019 study published in Springer that found positive associations between anxiety and hypertension. Some researchers also found that certain heart conditions are strongly associated with mental health conditions. In fact, one study showed the prevalence of depression was found in up to 53% of pulmonary arterial hypertension patients, and the prevalence of anxiety was up to 51%, via the journal of Vascular Health and Risk Management.

Managing anxiety for heart health

While some stress is a normal part of everyday living, chronic stress has more damaging impacts, particularly with regards to heart health. Chronic stress that lasts for days or weeks can raise blood pressure and increase one's risk of heart disease and stroke (via American Heart Association). Common symptoms of chronic stress can include back pain, headaches, and stomach pain. Managing stress and anxiety can not only improve your quality of life, but can also lead to improved heart health outcomes. The American Heart Association recommends implementing healthy lifestyle habits that keep stress and anxiety well-managed, including regular exercise, maintaining social connections with friends and family, getting enough sleep, maintaining a positive attitude, practicing relaxation techniques, and engaging with an enjoyable hobby. Additionally, if stress and anxiety come up frequently, it may help to start paying attention to triggers and patterns. By identifying patterns, you can not only try to remove bothersome triggers, but also practice mindfulness and other relaxation techniques. If you find it hard to manage implementing anxiety-reduction techniques on your own, seeking help from a qualified specialist can help you work through challenging thought patterns and instill new healthy habits around mental health and mindfulness.