High Blood Pressure: How Anxiety Attacks Can Be A Cause
Anxiety and hypertension have a serious impact on the physical and mental health conditions of millions of people around the world.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America ADAA, anxiety has become increasingly common in recent years with up to 40 million of American adults living with an anxiety disorder at over 18 years of age.
This is a significant portion of the population that is at risk for long-term physical, mental, and emotional problems.
Anxiety and hypertension often go hand in hand, as individuals suffering from one condition are more likely to be affected by the other.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing these conditions, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a variety of lifestyle changes and treatments to help manage both.
✅ What are Anxiety Disorders and High Blood Pressure
Anxiety and high blood pressure are two conditions that have serious health consequences if left untreated.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is consistently too high, causing damage to your arteries over time.
A systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or greater and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or greater show hypertension.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is an emotion characterized by feelings of worry, fear, and unease. Studies have found that people with a different type of anxiety tend to have higher blood pressure than those without it.
Anxiety is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of unease, fear, or worry that can interfere with day-to-day activities.
The good news is that both anxiety and high blood pressure can be managed through lifestyle changes and medical treatments.
The exact cause of the connection between anxiety and hypertension is still unknown but there are some theories surrounding why the two might be linked. It's proposed that when someone experiences anxious thoughts it causes their body to release hormones such as adrenaline which can then lead to a rise in blood pressure levels.
One type of hypertension that has been linked to anxiety is called white coat hypertension. This occurs when someone experiences elevated blood pressure readings in a healthcare setting due to anxiety or stress related to the visit itself.
Studies have found that people with white coat hypertension may be more likely to develop long-term hypertension than those without this condition.
✅ Symptoms of Anxiety and High Blood Pressure
It's estimated that up to 20% of people experiencing anxiety also have hypertension. Understanding the symptoms of both anxiety and high blood pressure can help individuals recognize if they should seek treatment for either or both conditions.
The most common anxiety symptoms are:
- Feelings of restlessness and sleeping
- Racing thoughts and worries
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability and feeling anxious
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle tension
- Aches and pains
- Feelings of fear or dread
High blood pressure is often known as "the silent killer" because it may not produce any notable physical signs until severe damage has been done to the body’s organs or vessels. Common signs and physical symptoms of blood pressure spikes include:
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath.
✅ Link Between Anxiety and High Blood Pressure
Anxiety disorders and panic attacks cause temporary spikes in blood pressure due to the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones speed up the heart rate and constrict blood vessels, leading to an increase in blood pressure.
Over time, if an individual experiences chronic anxiety or panic disorder, it leads to a more permanent increase in their blood pressure, which eventually leads to a heart attack or stroke.
The association between anxiety and hypertension is well-documented. Anxiety episodes increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn can cause an elevation in blood pressure.
The natural response to anxiety increases blood flow throughout the body and if these episodes of anxiety become frequent, it can lead to an increase in overall health risks due to high blood pressure.
Chronic high blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood moving through your arteries is too high, putting undue strain on your heart and other organs. Discover whether can anxiety cause chest pressure.
Studies have shown that people who suffer from frequent episodes of anxiety are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, due to the persistently elevated levels of anxiety which leads to a sustained increase in their blood pressure.
Therefore, it is important for individuals who experience episodes of anxiety to monitor their blood pressure and overall health closely, so they can take necessary steps to reduce their anxiety levels or seek medical advice if required.
✅ How Medications for Anxiety Cause High Blood Pressure
Anti-anxiety medications cause an increase in blood pressure, as they work by changing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.
In some cases, these medications cause a rise in blood pressure due to the increased activity of the nervous system. This increase in activity leads to an increase in heart rate and force of contraction, resulting in higher blood pressure.
It is important for individuals taking anxiety medications to be aware of this potential side effect and monitor their blood pressure regularly.
Additionally, it is important to speak with your doctor if you experience any changes in blood pressure while on anxiety medications so they can adjust dosages or consider alternative treatments.
When searching for medications that can help with feelings of anxiety, it is important to look beyond those that simply target the symptoms.
Medications that increase blood pressure may also be beneficial in providing relief from anxiety.
It functions as an anxiolytic and has been found to raise both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure in clinical trials.
It is a member of the benzodiazepine family of drugs. While it can be effective in treating anxiety, it also causes changes in heart rate and increases in both systolic and diastolic pressure when taken at higher doses or for extended periods of time.
Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam are all known to increase blood pressure when taken in higher doses or with certain conditions.
📌 Selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs are widely used to treat anxiety and depression as they work to increase levels of serotonin in the brain – one of the chemicals linked to mood regulation and happiness. SSRIs also reduce symptoms associated with anxiety.
📌 Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
TCAs block certain neurotransmitters from being released in the brain which helps reduce symptoms associated with anxiety or panic attacks such as restlessness and difficulty concentrating.
✅ Treatment of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common ailment that can lead to serious medical problems if left untreated. It is estimated that one in three adults has high blood pressure in the United States alone.
Fortunately, there are many medications available to treat hypertension and help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
⚫ Certain lifestyle changes also help reduce high blood pressure, such as reducing salt intake, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight.
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⚫ There are several medications available to effectively reduce and manage your high blood pressure levels.
Medications most commonly prescribed to treat hypertension include diuretics, calcium channel blockers (CCBs), alpha-blockers, central agonists, direct vasodilators, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
📌 Diuretics help lower blood pressure by flushing out excess fluid from your body.
📌 Beta blockers reduce the force of each heartbeat so it takes less effort for your heart to pump blood around the body.
📌 ACE inhibitors work by blocking certain hormones in order to relax and widen your arteries which helps decrease the amount of work required for your heart.
✅ Treatment of Anxiety and Hypertension
There are several treatments available that can help manage both of these conditions.
Therapy is one treatment method for both anxiety and hypertension.
⚫ Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to be an effective way to address stress and anxiety as it helps people identify their distorted thought patterns and learn to reframe them in healthier ways.
Cognitive restructuring has been shown to help reduce stress levels in hypertensive patients by helping them become aware of their physiological responses associated with stressful situations and develop more effective coping strategies for dealing with them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to identify maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that worsen anxiety or hypertension and replace them with healthier alternatives.
⚫ Lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine, getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, avoiding stressors, and engaging in leisure activities also manage anxiety and hypertension.
In more extreme cases of Anxiety or Hypertension, an individual may be recommended for hospitalization for additional treatment options such as medications or psychotherapy.
Read 9 ways on how to stop intrusive thoughts anxiety.
✅ Bottom Line
It is evident that anxiety and hypertension are closely linked. A diagnosis of hypertension often triggers additional worries and anxieties, which in turn contribute to further elevations in blood pressure. It is important that those with hypertension be aware of the importance of managing their anxiety levels and stress as part of an overall strategy for controlling their blood pressure. Additionally, it is essential those with high levels of anxiety seek professional help if needed, to ensure they are receiving the best possible support.