Let’s face it – for most people, this has been a tough year. Now, to top that off, we’re coming up on the most stressful time of year. With stress, for those susceptible, high blood pressure goes along with it all.
When a stressful event happens, the body goes into “fight or flight mode”. Hormones are released to help the person with either increased strength to fight, or endurance to run. It’s a survival mechanism, and an awesome one at that. Unlike the occasional big stressful event, we have multiple smaller events, chronically. No one is immune to stress. How we respond to stress and what keeps your blood pressure down is what matters.
When stressed, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol get released, activating the fight or flight response – the heart beats faster and the blood vessels constrict in order to get more blood moving. This increases blood pressure. That’s okay on an occasional basis, but when that happens chronically, we may have a problem. Although studies haven’t ascertained for sure if chronic stress causes hypertension, the associated actions in response to stress may.
One of those is our diet. When stressed, we need extra nutrients so we have the materials the body needs to manage the stress response. Instead of eating better, more nutrient-dense foods, when stressed, many people go for the junk foods. Stressed people tend to eat more sugar and carbs, more fast foods, more coffee, alcohol, energy drinks and anything to “just get through it”. This could, over time, lead to hypertension.
Stressed people tend to sleep less, staying up late trying to get things done. Less sleep reduces your ability to cope with stress, making it worse. In addition, it was found that people who take longer than 14 minutes to fall asleep have a 300% greater chance of having hypertension. So, get to bed early, and if you have insomnia, consider acupuncture to straighten you out.
Hypertension is also worse this time of year due to the stressful effect of cold on the heart. Cold causes vascular constriction, increasing blood pressure. So dress warm. Vitamin D deficiency, common this time of year, may also contribute to hypertension. Vitamin D is known for its positive effect on mood – especially anxiety and depression, more common this time of year.
Acupuncture is such a wonderful tool for stress, anxiety, depression and hypertension. In the Journal of Progress in Neurosurgery, Neurology and Neurosciences citing acupuncture as “a promising adjunctive therapy for essential hypertension: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial”, Acupuncture showed a significant decrease in mean BP – from 136.8/83.7 down to 122.1/76.8mmHg on average. This study only addressed blood pressure. When adding in treatments for anxiety, depression, stress, controlling sugar cravings and the many other contributors to hypertension, the results are truly impressive!
©2020 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.