Are you worried about your blood pressure?
Do you hate going to the doctor or hospital and hate having your blood pressure taken? Do you get more anxious as the cuff gets tighter on your arm? Does your blood pressure increase when you have it checked, and then that makes you feel even more anxious? In this blog, anxiety and blood pressure are discussed because there is a connection. However, according to a study*, it was concluded that ‘The mechanism between anxiety and hypertension is complex.’ Therefore you should speak to your doctor if you are worried.
Anxiety can influence your mind and body
When people get anxious, it can have an impact on all different areas of the body. It’s normal for blood pressure to fluctuate. It’s usually lower when you go to bed at night, and then it gradually rises until it’s at its highest level in the afternoon. Exercise increases blood pressure while you are exercising. Also, blood pressure can increase as you get older.
Getting your blood pressure checked is important, especially as you get older, as high blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular problems if left untreated. You can get this done at some pharmacists, and you can also buy your own blood pressure machines to check it yourself.
Doctors call high blood pressure hypertension. Some forms of high blood pressure do not have an identified cause, and they are called primary hypertension. Secondary hypertension has other causes such as some medications and some illnesses like kidney disease or diabetes. You need to have several readings to know if your blood pressure is raised.
When a doctor or other healthcare professional checks your blood pressure, you need to be sitting comfortably, back in the chair with your feet on the ground and your arm at chest height. When it’s checked, they get two readings. The top number is called the systolic and the lower number is diastolic. They represent the pumping force and resting of the heart. A blood pressure should be below 140/90 although doctors often like it to be lower. Both these numbers can increase with age and anxiety. Only a doctor can diagnose high blood pressure.
Anxiety can increase blood pressure as stress hormones are released into the bloodstream. This increases heart rate and narrows blood vessels. Generally, anxiety isn’t the cause of long term raised blood pressure, but it does contribute to blood pressure spikes. One example of raised blood pressure caused by stress and anxiety is thought to be White Coat Syndrome. This is often called situational anxiety. However, some people feel that White Coat Syndrome is just a precursor to future high blood pressure.
White Coat Syndrome
White coat syndrome, also called White Coat Hypertension or White Coat Effect, originates from the idea of blood pressure rising when the patient is anxious and is seeing a doctor. It’s a very common condition with 15-30% of people affected. It’s more common in women and older people.
How you can reduce anxiety and White Coat Syndrome
There are lots of lifestyle things that you can do to stop your blood pressure rising.
- Reduce your weight
- Cut down on caffeine in coffee and cola
- Do some exercise
- Eat a healthy diet and reduce salt intake
- Learn to relax
You can also reduce your anxiety by preparing for your next doctor’s visit by:
- Choosing a day and time when you are less busy.
- Arriving earlier for your appointment and then sitting quietly in the waiting area.
- Do deep breathing just before you go to see the doctor.
- Visualise something nice. This could be thinking about a nice holiday you had or maybe daydreaming about a place you would like to go in the future.
- Don’t drink coffee or cola before the appointment.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
If you are found to have a raised blood pressure, the doctor will often ask you to have a couple more checks. If it continues to be high, then an ambulatory blood pressure checks over 24 hours might be ordered. This gives the doctor a better picture of the fluctuations in your blood pressure. High blood pressure is treated with medications prescribed by your doctor.
If you are found to have anxiety, your doctor may offer medication or counselling.
Hypnotherapy can help if you are struggling with anxiety, primary hypertension or White Coat Syndrome. It can also help you to make lifestyle changes, especially if you are finding it difficult to do any of the above.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) also helps with anxiety and can be just a method of counselling or integrated with hypnosis.
Awaken the Change provides hypnosis and CBT to help people with anxiety either online or face to face when the current Coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.
Hypnosis audio recordings are also available online at https://www.awakenthechange.com/hypnosis-downloads/
Reference *Pan, Y., Cai, W., Cheng, Q., Dong, W., An, T., & Yan, J. (2015). Association between anxiety and hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11, 1121–1130. doi:10.2147/NDT.S77710
This blog is for general information. Please speak to your doctor or healthcare practitioner if you are worried about your blood pressure or if your anxiety is impacting on your usual daily activities.