In every person's life, there are positive and negative phases of stress. That is normal. The autonomic nervous system is able to self-regulate the body and bring the psyche in balance. The sympathicus (sympathetic nervous system) is responsible for the rapid response and the drive for the "escape" or the "attack". The parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system stands for relaxation, rest and regeneration.
INCREASED BLOOD PRESSURE DUE TO STRESS - A NORMAL REACTION OF THE BODY
Stress (congestion) is a vital "emergency program" of the human body which serves to respond to dangers in a timely manner or to adapt to changes. The adrenal medulla (adrenal gland) releases the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenalin), which speeds up the heartbeat and increases blood pressure.
DANGEROUS STRESS-RELATED HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
In case of continuous stress (permanent conflicts in the professional or private environment, excessive demands, time pressure) cortisol level remains permanently high. If stress hormones are no longer broken down, this disbalance can cause permanent high blood pressure and can have other negative consequences, such as back pain, stomach problems and headaches. Stress-related high blood pressure can be life-threatening as it can causes stroke, kidney failure, or heart attack. Stress situations always have a direct influence on the cardiovascular system.
Even positive stress can be a danger. Who lives by the motto: "Anything that is fun, cannot be harmful" in his professional ambitions overestimates himself. The organism needs a period of relaxation after every periods of tension. If there is no possibility of regeneration over a longer period of time, high blood pressure due to stress or burnout may be inevitable and – very dangerous.
HYPERTENSION (ARTERIAL HYPERTENSION)
To provide all organs with blood and the cells with the vital oxygen, the heart regularly pumps this "life elixir" with a certain pressure in the arteries. Depending on the pumping action, the pressure conditions can be measured. When the heart contracts, the pressure (systolic value) increases. During relaxation period the pressure drops (diastolic value). The cardiac output and the arterial condition give the height of the blood pressure. Blood pressure is too high when the upper (systolic) value exceeds 140 mm Hg and the lower (diastolic) value exceeds 90 mm Hg. If the measured value is more than 140/90 mm Hg, it is called arterial hypertension.
Hypertension is divided into two types: primary and secondary hypertension. In primary (essential) hypertension the causes are mostly unclear. The effects can be very diverse. Secondary (symptomatic) hypertension is less common and is caused by kidney disease, metabolic disorders or congenital heart and vascular disease.
There are various stress factors which become a health hazard if the stress regulation via the parasympathetic nervous system is poor. These include:
• Deficiencies of micronutrients due to unhealthy diet
• Occupational or private stress
• Negative emotions (fears, existential worries)
• Pollution through food and medications
• Permanent noise pollution (aircraft or construction noise)
• Lack of sleep due to air, rail or road traffic
Even driving in heavy traffic can lead to stress-related high blood pressure. Being constantly "under pressure" including pressure of time and performance makes people sick. Stress-related hypertension has become a "modern" and dangerous civilization disease.
Risk factors and high-risk groups are include:
• Occupations with multitasking functions
• Increase in alcohol consumption
• Diabetes mellitus
• Lack of exercise
• Permanent mental stress
• Too many high-fat, salty and high-sugar diets (increased lipid levels in the blood)
• Family obligations
Stress-related high blood pressure becomes dangerous if it is not detected and treated in time. Narrowed blood vessels, deposits in the arteries and damage to the inner walls of the arteries are an increased risk for further hypertension and for serious consequences such as heart attack or stroke.
STRESS-RELATED HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE - COUNTERMEASURES
Avoid chronic stress. Pay attention to a balanced, low-fat and low-salt diet. Exercise regularly. Change your lifestyle, and if necessary make a change of residence or occupation. Weight reduction, avoiding smoking and restriction of coffee and alcohol consumption are a good way of dealing with this problem. Learn some stress management techniques to better deal with stressful situations. Use antihypertensive medication as prescribed by the doctor.
Stress-related high blood pressure can be restored to normality even without medication. Deep breathing techniques (from the Indian health teaching Ayurveda) can relax breath and heartbeat and thus reduce blood pressure. The person concerned calms down again.
Stress is further avoided or decreased by sports activity, relaxing hobbies (gardening, music, creative design) and moments of silence. If the stress reduces, the dangerous hypertension decreases.
Relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation have proven successful in dealing with stress.