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Anxiety and Blood Pressure

writtenByWritten by: Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Ken Cosby M.D.
Reviewer

Ken Cosby M.D.

Dr. Ken Cosby received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine (Washington, DC) and completed his research post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health including the National Heart Lung Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

March 28, 2021 Read Time - 6 minutes

Is There a Connection Between Anxiety and Blood Pressure?

Yes, anxiety does have an effect on your blood pressure. Anxiety is part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls the “automatic” functions of the body. These functions include tasks that you do not consciously think about, such as blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and temperature control. As our bodies react to stressful situations (i.e., fear, joy, laughter, etc.), our blood pressure increases and sometimes even decreases. 

Continue reading to learn more about anxiety and blood pressure, including the causes of increased blood pressure and treatment options for both anxiety and high blood pressure.

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How Can Anxiety Lead to High Blood Pressure?

Naturally, your body produces hormones that trigger the “fight or flight” response when danger is sensed. This leads to stronger and faster heartbeats, increased blood to the organs, and therefore increased blood pressure. Sometimes, this response is triggered out of context and a person may feel “anxious” for seemingly no reason at all. On other occasions, anxiety is triggered by fear. Either way, anxiety can cause high blood pressure. 

The difference between anxiety-induced blood pressure and someone with hypertension (high blood pressure) is that hypertension is long-term, while anxiety-induced hypertension is shorter in duration. According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety does not cause long-term high blood pressure, though episodes of anxiety can cause dramatic, temporary spikes in blood pressure.

How Much Does Anxiety Raise Blood Pressure?

The exact amount that anxiety raises blood pressure varies with each individual. Normal blood pressure is defined as 120/80 mmHg. Anxiety-induced blood pressure can be any blood pressure measuring  above this level.

Anxiety triggers the release of brain chemicals called norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline) which raise blood pressure. In a medical setting, epinephrine or norepinephrine can be given intravenously to increase blood pressure in patients who are critically ill. This is a proven event that these chemicals increase blood pressure, so it is assumed that it also does so in a normal setting. 

Evidence of anxiety-induced blood pressure is also apparent in a condition called “white-coat syndrome,” which is a condition where people have high blood pressure around medical professionals (wearing white coats) but have normal blood pressure at home. This effect is usually caused by anxiety provoked during doctor office visits. 

Can Stress and Anxiety Raise Blood Pressure?

Yes, stress and anxiety can raise blood pressure. It is known that stress and anxiety can trigger your body’s fight or flight response, which raises your heart rate and blood pressure. 

Some causes of stress and anxiety that can raise your blood pressure include:

  • Being unhappy in your job
  • Having too heavy workload at your job or at home
  • Working long hours
  • Having poor management at work or school
  • Challenges of school, projects, and homework
  • Getting married
  • Getting divorced
  • Loss of a job
  • The death of a spouse or loved one
  • Increased financial obligations or struggles
  • Moving to a new home
  • Chronic illness or injury
  • Mental health disorders
  • Being a caregiver for elderly or sick family members
  • Surviving a traumatic event (natural disaster, neglect, violence, abandonment, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse)

How Can I Lower My Blood Pressure From Anxiety?

Lowering your blood pressure from anxiety can be done by calming yourself and removing the anxiety. There are several techniques you can use to reduce stress and anxiety. Try these techniques to reduce anxiety and lower your blood pressure naturally:

  • Take deep breaths
  • Meditate (use an app)
  • Exercise daily
  • Try yoga
  • Get enough sleep
  • Change your thought patterns to resist the tendency to complain
  • Acknowledge your feelings about the situation and then focus on finding solutions
  • Simplify your schedule
  • Organize your schedule
  • Do not overbook yourself (learn to say no)

Does High Blood Pressure Cause Anxiety?

Yes, high blood pressure can cause anxiety because it can make the person worry about their future health and current condition. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. People who are anxious also tend to smoke, drink alcohol, and overeat. All of these habits can raise blood pressure further. Knowing that high blood pressure can cause serious illnesses perpetuates anxiety even further.

Can Treating Anxiety Lower Blood Pressure?

Yes, treating anxiety that causes temporary spikes in blood pressure can be lowered with treatment. Medication and therapy are used to treat anxiety. Anxiety can be diagnosed by a primary care doctor or psychiatrist. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are typical first line medication treatment for anxiety. Can high blood pressure be temporary? Yes, treating anxiety with medication can lower blood pressure by reducing the temporary spike. 

Treatment for Anxiety

Treatment for anxiety includes taking prescription medications, home remedies, and other therapies. Prescription medications for anxiety are prescribed by a medical doctor. 

If you have trouble controlling your anxiety or if anxiety interferes with daily activities, talk to your doctor or a mental health provider to find an appropriate treatment. The following are some common prescription medications prescribed for anxiety:

Home remedies for anxiety are used in combination with other therapies. Home remedies to treat anxiety include:

  • Diffusion therapy with essential oils (such as peppermint or lavender oil)
  • Distraction techniques
  • Drink ice cold water
  • Visualization techniques
  • Use smartphone to play a game, crossword, or meditation app

Traditional talk therapy is often the first line of therapy for anxiety. Other therapies used to treat anxiety include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Light therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Treatment for High Blood Pressure

Treatment for high blood pressure that is long-term includes medication and lifestyle changes. Medication is often the first line of therapy for high blood pressure and several classes of drugs are available. Common classes of medications prescribed to treat high blood pressure include:

  • Diuretics
  • Beta Blockers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Alpha blockers
  • Alpha-2 receptor agonist
  • Combined alpha and beta blockers
  • Central agonists
  • Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors
  • Vasodilators

Your doctor will determine which class of drug is right for you. Lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure. You will most likely be told to lose weight if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure. Other lifestyle changes you can make without a prescription include:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Cut back on caffeine
  • Reduce your anxiety

Overall, anxiety and blood pressure are linked and can be treated whether the high blood pressure is caused by anxiety or hypertension. If you struggle with anxiety or think you have chronic high blood pressure, speak with a PlushCare provider to determine what treatment plan you need.


Read More About Anxiety and Blood Pressure


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American Heart Association. Types of Blood Pressure Medications. Accessed on January 21, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/types-of-blood-pressure-medications

Hinkle, J.L., & Cheever, K.H. (2018). Assessment of Cardiovascular Function. Brunner & Suddarth’s Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing (687). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Mayo Clinic. Anxiety: A cause of high blood pressure? Accessed on January 21, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/anxiety/faq-20058549 

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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