Stress and hypertension

May 17th is World Hypertension Day, with the aim of making us more aware of the dangers of this condition and to encourage everyone to have their blood pressure checked.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for most of the top 5 causes of death, including strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and even diabetes. Many of these deaths are preventable if you know that you have high blood pressure and get the necessary treatment.

You can also prevent hypertension, or even reduce blood pressure, through healthy lifestyle choices – healthy eating, reducing weight, exercise and relaxation.

The stress caused by the high pressure and fast pace of modern living is one of the factors contributing to the increase in hypertension and its associated chronic conditions and deaths. Our bodies have an old age mechanism whereby a cascade of hormones is released to prepare us when we face danger – the “fight or flight” response.  One of these hormones, cortisol, switches off non-essential bodily functions, releases sugar for more energy, increases the heart rate – and blood pressure. Under normal circumstances, the stress response switches off once the danger has passed and bodily functions return to normal

Unfortunately, our bodies haven’t learnt the difference between the danger of facing a lion and the modern stressors of deadlines, heavy workloads, constant interruptions on our cell phones, financial pressures, and more.  The stress of modern living often causes a continuous barrage of cortisol – the switch is never turned off.  This is seen as a significant reason behind the increase of chronic conditions.

It is important to build relaxing activities into your life – make plans to exercise in the outdoors, to spend time with friends chatting and laughing face-to-face, to do something creative that you enjoy and live in the moment.

Join May Measurement Month and have your blood pressure checked.  Also, make time to “Stop and smell the roses.”

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