Being part of life, anxiety is one thing that every human being will encounter from time to time. One may feel it when he or she is stuck in traffic, pressured at work, attending job interview, or worrying family matters and finances. Doctors characterize anxiety as feelings of intense worry or fear. It can cause many physical symptoms, including increased heart rate and shallow breathing. Anxiety may also raise one’s blood pressure, at least in the short term.
This is because when one feel anxious, whether it is a life-threatening emergency or persistent worry, the stress hormones in the body will be released. These hormones trigger an increase in the heart rate and a narrowing of the blood vessels. Both of these changes cause blood pressure to rise, sometimes dramatically. It is believed that anxiety is the reason behind white coat hypertension, a phenomenon in which some individuals consistently have higher blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office than at home.
A little anxiety may be fine., and sometimes it can be motivating. For instance, it may help one start a new exercise routine or make healthier diet when he or she is told by the doctor that his or her blood cholesterol level is high. But it needs to be balanced out by parasympathetic nervous system activity. The parasympathetic nervous system helps one relaxes, and a balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems is essential for heart health.
Unfortunately, some people with anxiety do not have such balance, and this could hurt the heart over time. When these people who are constantly exposed to anxiety may experience changes to their immune system, blood vessels, and platelets that may contribute to heart disease. A research review published online April 22, 2015 in Journal “Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment” reported that people who experience high levels of anxiety are more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) than those who are not as anxious. Earlier findings published in 2005 in journal “Experimental & Clinical Cardiology” also found that hypertension was linked to anxiety but not depression.
Hypertension is one of the most common diseases worldwide. It has been predicted by scientists that the total number of adults with hypertension in 2025 will rise to 1.56 billion worldwide. Hypertension has been identified as the leading cause of mortality and the third cause of disability-adjusted life years worldwide. It has also been proven to be a risk factor of heart disease.
While research does not really prove that anxiety can directly lead to hypertension or heart disease, people should not ignore a steady state of high anxiety they face. Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine whether the anxiety one faces is the type that could hurt the heart in the long run. Doctors and clinicians tend to use lengthy questionnaires, such as the state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI). As advised by health experts, if one feels like he or she worries too much about a variety of things on most days, and this anxiety is messing with the sleep or mood or relationships, then that is the kind of anxiety that might lead to hypertension and heart trouble.
Living with an anxiety disorder can increase the likelihood of behaviours, including alcohol use, lack of exercise, poor diet and tobacco use that could contribute to hypertension. It is important to find ways to deal with anxiety.
Medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes are some options that can treat anxiety. Most people would require a combination of various options. Several medicines, for instance, buspirone and benzodiazepines, can relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Working with a psychotherapist can often help manage anxiety symptoms. People can make simple changes to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, too. These include practicing deep breathing techniques or progressive muscle relaxation; meditating; exercising regularly; getting enough sleep; adopting a healthy diet and limiting caffeine intake; staying away from alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs; and reducing stressors at home, work, and school, where possible.
Published on HowToPreventHeartDisease.com 18th March 2021