What is the link between anxiety and high blood pressure?
Anxiety and high blood pressure can be symptoms of each other. Anxiety may lead to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure can trigger feelings of anxiety.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as feelings of worry or tension. It can cause certain physical symptoms, including increased heart rate and sweating. The APA also notes that anxiety may increase a person’s blood pressure.
Additionally, having long-term high blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause people to feel anxious about their health and future. Severe hypertension can also cause a person to experience anxiety.
Keep reading to learn more about the link between anxiety and high blood pressure, as well as how to treat both conditions.
Can anxiety cause high blood pressure?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. A person may feel anxious before a test or when waiting for important news.
It occurs when the body releases stress hormones. These hormones trigger an increase in heart rate and a narrowing of the blood vessels. Both of these changes can cause a person’s blood pressure to rise.
A 2015 review indicates that people with intense anxiety have a higher risk of hypertension than those with lower levels of anxiety. Researchers conclude that early detection and treatment of anxiety are particularly important in people with hypertension.
Anxiety-induced increases in blood pressure are usually temporary and subside once the anxiety lessens. Regularly having high levels of anxiety, however, can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels in the same way that long-term hypertension can.
In the long term, anxiety-related hormone changes may cause increased fat deposits, particularly around the abdomen. Anxiety can also prompt behavior changes in people, such as stress eating, which may indirectly contribute to hypertension.
Additionally, some medications for anxiety can increase blood pressure. Research from 2017 found that serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which people use to treat anxiety disorders, can increase blood pressure.
Can stress cause high blood pressure?
Anxiety is a response to stress. Stress causes the release of hormones, such as epinephrine and cortisol. These hormones induce the “fight-or-flight” response, which prepares the body to flee or confront the perceived threat.
Fight-or-flight hormones can cause a person to experience an increase in:
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- muscular strength
Once a person has dealt with their stress, their body systems should return to normal. However, a person who has long-term stress can develop health problems, such as:
- stomach pain
- weight gain
- weakened immune system
- lack of sleep
- inability to make decisions
- memory issues
- increase in fats in the blood
Can high blood pressure cause anxiety?
Having high blood pressure may trigger feelings of anxiety in some people. A person with hypertension may worry about their health and their future.
Additionally, the symptoms of hypertension can cause panic or anxiety. Symptoms of hypertension include:
- vision changes
- irregular heart rhythm
- buzzing in the ears
Severe hypertension can also cause a person to experience anxiety. If a person experiences extreme anxiety alongside symptoms such as headache or shortness of breath, they should seek medical attention immediately.
It can be difficult to distinguish between anxiety and changes in blood pressure. Hypertension does not usually cause symptoms. This means it is important for a person to have a doctor check their blood pressure regularly.
Anxiety and low blood pressure
There is currently no evidence to suggest that anxiety lowers a person’s blood pressure. However, having low blood pressure may cause a person to become anxious or worried.
Symptoms of low blood pressure can be similar to those of anxiety. Symptoms of both low blood pressure and anxiety include:
- difficulty concentrating
Learn more about fluctuating blood pressure here.
Anxiety or blood pressure changes?
A person with low blood pressure may experience symptoms similar to those of anxiety. If a person is unsure whether their symptoms are due to anxiety or low blood pressure, they should speak with a doctor.
Additionally, people who have severe or recurrent symptoms of either should see their doctor. A doctor will be able to diagnose the underlying cause of the symptoms and can prescribe any necessary treatments.
Treatment for anxiety
There are several treatment options for anxiety. A person may require a combination of these treatments.
Several medicines can relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Different types of medication will work for different people. Options include:
- buspirone, an anti-anxiety drug
- certain antidepressants
- benzodiazepines, which are a type of sedative medication for short-term anxiety relief
- beta-blockers, which help a person’s heart beat more slowly and gently
Working with a psychotherapist can help people manage their anxiety symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for anxiety. CBT teaches people to change their thinking patterns to help them reduce anxious thoughts and worries.
During CBT, a person learns techniques to manage their anxiety and gradually expose themselves to situations that trigger it. This helps the person become less fearful and anxious in these situations.
A person can make lifestyle changes to help reduce feelings of anxiety. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) suggests the following to help with anxiety:
- exercising regularly
- practicing mindfulness
- eating a balanced diet
- avoiding alcohol and drugs
- getting consistent, high-quality sleep
- learning a new skill
- trying to reduce negative thoughts, countering them with positive ones
- setting goals and rewards
- creating or maintaining a support system
Read about natural remedies for anxiety here.
Treatment for high blood pressure
A person who has hypertension may be given a treatment plan by their doctor. This can involve lifestyle changes, medications, or both.
A person can make various lifestyle changes to lower their blood pressure, including:
- avoiding or limiting alcohol
- reducing salt intake
- eating a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains
- exercising regularly
- quitting smoking, if appropriate
- maintaining a moderate weight
- managing stress
- getting good-quality sleep
Learn about 15 natural ways to lower blood pressure here.
There are several types of medication for treating high blood pressure. These include:
- angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which prevent blood vessels from narrowing as much
- angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) to stop blood vessels from narrowing
- calcium channel blockers, which allow blood vessels to relax
- diuretics, which remove excess water and sodium from the body
The type of medication that a person needs will depend on several factors, including their general health and the severity of their hypertension. Some people may need more than one type of medication to keep their blood pressure under control.
When to seek help
People who think they may have anxiety, hypertension, or both, should speak with a doctor. Those who have severe symptoms should seek immediate care, as this can indicate a medical emergency.
Symptoms to look out for include:
- chest pain
- muscle tremors
- shortness of breath
- back pain
- numbness or weakness
- difficulty speaking
Both hypertension and anxiety are highly treatable conditions. A person with anxiety will not necessarily develop hypertension.
However, seeking help as early as possible can improve the outcome for people with either condition and reduce the risk of complications.
There is a link between anxiety and high blood pressure. A person with anxiety may develop hypertension, especially if they regularly experience intense anxiety.
Other people may develop anxiety as a result of high blood pressure. Treatment for one condition can often improve the other.
A person who suspects they have one or both conditions should see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.