How mood affects your blood pressure

Have you ever been concerned if your mood and stressful situations could be affecting your blood pressure?  If so, you could be onto something.  The type of mood we are experiencing at any given moment or dealing with a stress-related incident may be causing spikes in your blood pressure more than you know.


Think back to situations having completely opposite effects on your mood and sense of being.  For example, if you are completely relaxed with no worries, do you feel like your blood pressure is in better control than if you are freaking out about losing your luggage?  Or are you someone who becomes easily upset at rude, incompetent drivers or when listening to the political climate or some other sort of stress-related life experience - your blood pressure could be taking the brunt of your mood swings.   

In other words, our thoughts, feelings, and actions may play a fairly significant role in influencing our blood pressure more than we realize. 

The difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure

The only way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure tested.  This is typically done at every doctor’s visit or you can buy your own blood pressure monitoring kit to use at home.  When blood pressure is taken, there are two numbers that are recorded – your systolic number and your diastolic number.  Let’s say your blood pressure is 117/76 mm Hg.  The first number (117) is the systolic blood pressure which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.  The second number (76) is the diastolic blood pressure indicating how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats. 

The top number or the systolic blood pressure is typically given more attention as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people over the age of 50.  Systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease. 

How our mood or stress affects blood pressure

When stress or a drastic change in your mood hits, your body produces a surge of hormones.  These hormones temporarily increase your blood pressure causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.  If your life is like a merry-go-round of one stressful, moody situation to another, then this could be negatively affecting your blood pressure increasing your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Even though there is no proof that your mood or stress by themselves cause long-term high blood pressure, it’s possible health conditions related to stress such as anxiety, depression, and isolation from family or friends may be linked to heart disease.  What could be happening is the hormones produced when you are emotionally stressed may damage your arteries, leading to heart disease.  If could also be that being depressed may cause self-destructive behavior such as neglecting to take your medications to control your blood pressure or other heart conditions. 

Either way, you will want to keep your mood and stressful events under good control as much as you can to prevent wide swings of your blood pressure. 

Mood-busting and stress-reducing activities to help lower your blood pressure

Life happens - there will always be times in which controlling our mood or stress levels can be difficult.  But the more angry outbursts or overreaction to situations out of our control, the more our blood pressure can be affected.  When we use strategies to help better manage stress and mood, it can improve health in many ways.  Mastering stress management techniques can lead to other behavior changes including lowering blood pressure.

Here are options to try in managing moods and stress in a more constructive manner:

·      Prevent “white coat hypertension” – This term is used to describe a patient who has persistently elevated clinic or office blood pressure (higher than 140/90 mm Hg). This white coat effect can be a common response to an office visit in which a patient becomes easily overly-anxious about seeing a doctor and having their blood pressure taken.  One way to prevent this is to not smoke a cigarette or drink coffee within 30 minutes of a blood pressure measurement.  Emptying your bladder beforehand and sitting quietly for at least 5 minutes before the reading is taken can also be effective.  It is also advised to avoid talking while blood pressure is being taken as the act of talking can elevate the reading.  Also as the nurse is putting on the cuff and during the entire time of the blood pressure measurement being taken, let your body go limp, becoming completely relaxed while breathing deeply and exhaling slowly out the mouth. 

·      Simplify your life – Feelings of constantly being rushed or overscheduled can get anyone into a bad mood.  Take a few minutes each day to review your calendar and to-do lists.  Look for activities that take up your time but are not that important to you.  Schedule fewer activities or eliminate them completely.

·      Take time to breathe – Sounds obvious but making a conscious effort to deepen and slow down your breathing can help you relax and put things in perspective.  Even just 5 minutes a day of sitting comfortably in a quiet room, with your eyes closed, and simply breathing deeply can make a profound difference.

·      Always exercise – Physical activity is a natural stressbuster.  Make sure you have your doctor’s okay to start a new exercise program, especially if you have high blood pressure.

·      Give yoga or Pilates a try – Not only can yoga or Pilates maintain flexibility and strengthen your body, they can also help you relax. Regular practice of either one may lower your systolic blood pressure by 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or more.

·      Get sufficient sleep – When we are sleep deprived, this puts none of us in a good mood and can exacerbate your problems. Have a regular bedtime routine that lets your body know it is getting ready to sleep.  

·      Find solutions to your problems – We all have problems we deal with but resist the tendency to complain.  Acknowledge your feelings about the situation and then focus on finding solutions.