Does Stress Cause High Blood Pressure? What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Angelica Balingit, MD

In some cases, stress may contribute to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. This is because stress can trigger physical reactions in the body that affect the heart and blood vessels. This article discusses how stress can cause high blood pressure, according to research. It also explains treatment and the outlook for high blood pressure and stress. Finally, it answers some frequently asked questions about stress and high blood pressure.

Can stress cause high blood pressure? 

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In some cases, stress may cause blood pressure to increase.

Stress can trigger the release of adrenaline, a hormone that helps the body respond to a perceived threat. This is known as the fight-or-flight response, and it has many physical effects on the body. These effects include temporarily causing Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source your blood vessels to constrict and your heart rate to increase. This combination can lead to an increase in blood pressure. 

However, this increase in blood pressure may not necessarily be chronic or clinical. Stress may cause blood pressure to rise. However, these rises may not be high or long lasting enough to meet diagnostic thresholds of hypertension. They may also not require clinical treatment.

Learn more about blood pressure, including levels and diagnosis.

Acute stress and blood pressure

Acute stress is your body’s short-term reaction to distressing input. This kind of stress may be a reaction to everyday, temporary stressors, like getting stuck in traffic.

Acute or situational stress can trigger your fight-or-flight response and increase blood pressure. However, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) charity, this increase is temporary Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source . The blood pressure can return to what it was before once the stress is over. This differs from clinical cases of hypertension.

Chronic stress and blood pressure

The links between clinical hypertension and chronic stress are still being Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source investigated. Currently, there is no definitive evidence to suggest that stress alone causes clinical cases of high blood pressure.

Instead, researchers from a 2019 review suggest that stress may be one of many Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source contributing factors to developing high blood pressure.

A 2021 study Trusted Source AHA/ASA Journals Peer reviewed journal Go to source suggests that having high levels of stress hormones in the urine was linked with an increased risk of hypertension. This is supported by a 2019 study Trusted Source AHA/ASA Journals Peer reviewed journal Go to source that observed that people with higher perceived stress levels had an increased chance of developing high blood pressure over the course of 13 years.

Researchers from the 2019 review also suggest that stress may be a risk for other cardiovascular conditions. These conditions could include:

However, the researchers note that in many cases, additional health factors may have contributed to these conditions.

As a result, further research is necessary to confirm the exact effects of stress on high blood pressure. Stress alone may not cause hypertension. However, it may be particularly important to manage stress if you experience other risk factors for heart disease.

Everyone’s stress is different

Everyone can react to stressful input differently. Some people’s responses to the same input may be milder or more intense than others. Additionally, many different factors can contribute to stress and clinical high blood pressure.

Due to this, not everyone may experience the same complications of stress. If you have questions about your own health and stress, contact your doctor for personalized advice.

Read more about anxiety and blood pressure.

Treatment for stress and high blood pressure

If you have hypertension that is linked to stress, your doctor may recommend some combination of clinical treatments and self-care. This treatment plan will aim to lower both your stress and high blood pressure.  

Treatments for hypertension can include: 

  • self-care and lifestyle changes
  • medication, such as:
    • angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
    • beta-blockers
    • calcium channel blockers
    • diuretics

Treatment for stress can include: 

Lifestyle changes for stress and high blood pressure

Below are some examples of lifestyle changes to help treat high blood pressure and stress:

  • exercising regularly
  • practicing meditation and breathwork
  • getting enough quality sleep
  • spending time with people you trust
  • resting and engaging in enjoyable hobbies
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • quitting or avoiding smoking
  • limiting alcohol
  • prioritizing balanced meals consisting of minimally processed fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables

Outlook

Acute stress appears to only temporarily raise your blood pressure. Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that chronic stress alone leads to long-term high blood pressure. 

However, chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure and other longer-term impacts on the cardiovascular system. This is especially true if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease. If you feel you experience stress regularly, or have any symptoms of illness, contact your doctor for advice.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), clinical cases of hypertension are treatable Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source with effective care.

Read more about the possible complications of stress and high blood pressure.

FAQ

The following frequently asked questions have been reviewed by Angelica Balingit, M.D.

How much does stress raise blood pressure?

How much stress raises blood pressure varies between individuals.

You can monitor your own blood pressure levels with an at-home blood pressure monitor. Take a reading when you are not stressed and compare it to when you feel stressed. However, this will be a very rough estimation. For more accurate information, contact your doctor.

Does arguing raise blood pressure?

A heated argument can be a stressor for many people, so it may raise your blood pressure temporarily.

A 2021 study supports this, as it suggests that high-arousal negative emotions like anger may cause elevated blood pressure.

How do I know if my blood pressure is stress-related?

If your blood pressure is temporarily elevated after a stressful event, it is most likely Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source stress-related.

However, with long-term high blood pressure, other factors are likely to be the root cause of your hypertension. Additionally, sometimes the cause of high blood pressure is unknown.

Summary

Short-term stress can cause temporary rises in blood pressure. There is not much evidence to suggest that stress causes long-term or clinical high blood pressure. However, research indicates that it may be one of many contributing factors.

As a result, it is advisable to manage your stress and contact your doctor if you have any concerns about blood pressure or the impacts of stress. Treatment can help resolve your condition, and it may include medication and lifestyle changes.

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Medical Reviewer: Angelica Balingit, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 13
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