Attention Men: How much do you know about the connection between stress and high blood pressure? Stress is a silent killer. Statistics show over 50% of yearly doctor visits are related to stress! To avoid a heart attack or stroke, it’s important for men to understand the physical effects of stress so they can avoid hypertension.
What is High Blood Pressure?
In order to understand high blood pressure, it’s important to take a step back and understand how blood works in the body. Every cell, muscle, and fiber in your body needs oxygen in order to survive and thrive. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through your veins, delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. This is called systolic blood pressure. Pressure is also created when the heart rests between beats. This is called diastolic blood pressure.
This is where they get your blood pressure reading at the doctor’s office. For example, 120/80 means 120 systolic blood pressure and 80 diastolic blood pressure. Normal blood pressure for men over twenty is 120/80. High blood pressure starts when your systolic blood pressure begins to climb anywhere from 140-159 and your diastolic blood pressure goes anywhere from 90-99.
Do Stress and Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure?
Anxiety and stress themselves don’t necessarily elevate blood pressure in the long term,” says preventive cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD, “but they often have an impact on lifestyle factors, which can absolutely contribute to elevations in blood pressure.”
What Type of Health Problems Can High Blood Pressure Cause?
High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause serious health problems for men. Let’s take a look at some of them in detail:
When high blood pressure damages the lining of your arteries, fats and cholesterol from food can build-up, blocking blood flow to your heart. This can lead to heart attack, aneurysm or stroke.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease and arteriosclerosis go hand in hand. When your arteries become blocked by cholesterol or damaged by high blood pressure, it greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, aneurysm or stroke.
When high blood pressure leads to coronary artery disease, it can eventually lead to heart failure. The muscles in your heart become too weak from damage and can no longer effectively pump blood throughout your body.
Enlarged Left Heart
When you have high blood pressure for a long period of time, your heart has to work that much harder to pump blood through your body. This can cause the left ventricle to stiffen and thicken, increasing your risk of sudden heart failure and death.
“Wow! All this from stress?” Yup! Read On.
Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia
As if damage to your arteries and heart wasn’t bad enough, continued high blood pressure can also attack your brain. When your arteries and heart are weakened and damaged, it decreases the amount of nutrients your brain receives, leaving you open for cognitive impairment, which can lead to permanent dementia.
Transient Ischemic Attack
Often caused by a blood clot, a transient ischemic attack is also called a mini-stroke. This deprives your brain of oxygen for a short time and can cause lasting brain damage.
It may surprise you to know one of the most common causes of kidney failure is high blood pressure. There are large arteries leading to the blood vessels within the kidneys and when these become damaged, it can lead to kidney failure, dependence on dialysis, and even death.
Healthy blood pressure and the ability to maintain an erection are closely linked. Sustained high blood pressure leads to permanent artery damage, which can lead to limited blood flow getting to your sexual organs. Poor circulation due to high blood pressure is a common cause of erectile dysfunction.
Common Causes of Stress in Men
The most common causes of stress in men are work, personal relationships, family, and romantic relationships. The only way a man can completely eliminate these stresses from his life is to live in the woods as a hermit. And while that might sound attractive for a week or so, it’s not realistic. Dealing with stress doesn’t have to be a hardship. There are plenty of things men can do to take charge of their personal lives and feel real success.
Men and the Physical Effects of Stress
Stress doesn’t just cause high blood pressure. It can create other physical health problems such as:
- Chronic Headaches
- Weakened Immune System
- Muscle and Backaches
- Gastrointestinal Problems (Heartburn, Constipation, Diarrhea)
- Loss of Interest in Sex
Men and the Psychological Effects of Stress
Stress can also cause mental health problems for men, such as:
- Aggressive Tendencies
- Concentration Problems
- Low Self Esteem
How Stress Increases the Risk of Hypertension
When you’re stressed, your body produces a hormone that rapidly elevates your blood pressure. This is sometimes called the “fight or flight” response. If you’re being chased by a bear or about to get into a car accident, this type of body response can be very helpful in getting you out of danger. However, when stress hormones remain high, so does blood pressure and this can lead to hypertension.
What Men Can Do to Lower Their Stress
As a man, there is plenty you can do to lower your stress:
- Get Regular Exercise – Nothing beats flab and stress like 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. Whether it’s walking, running, jogging, hiking, biking or lifting weights at the gym, staying active is your key to staying healthy and relaxed.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Sleep is way underrated. If you’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night, you’re less able to handle everyday stresses.
- Avoid Procrastination – There are certain types of stresses you just have to deal with. Avoiding them will only prolong the time you have to stay stressed about something. Take charge! Tackle those challenges and knock those stress levels down one at a time.
- Avoid Unnecessary Stress – If you can, avoid certain stressful situations. Leave earlier for work to avoid traffic jams and don’t hang out with people who irritate you if you don’t have to.
- Stay Positive – Even if you don’t believe in all that “Law of Attraction” stuff, try it. If you’re stressed about an upcoming event or situation, take time to imagine a successful outcome. It will go a long way in increasing your confidence and decreasing your stress.
- Meditate – You don’t have to get into a weird pretzel shape to try meditation. Just sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing for twenty minutes a day can clear your mind and calm your body.
- Make Time for Hobbies – Slacking off once in the while is good for your health. No matter what your interest, make time for hobbies. They keep your mind sharp and your body relaxed
- Avoid Over-Commitment – You’re a man. Not superman. Taking on more than what you can handle means you’re not going to be able to give each task your all. That can lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. If your plate is already full, learn how to tactfully say no.
- Talk it Out – If stress is getting to be more than you can handle and you’re struggling with depression or substance abuse, reach out and get some professional help. Despite what you think, talking to a counselor about your stress does not make you weak. Continuing to abuse alcohol or drugs or lashing out at your significant other would.
As a man, you may be tempted to take on too much. With work, family and relationship commitments, stress can really take its toll on your health. Remember to slow down and relax but meet challenges head on. Don’t procrastinate and stay positive. When you take care of your physical and mental health, you’ll be ready to take on the world.