Find ways to cope with the effects of your stress before they cause you cardiac damage says Carole Spiers

If you live or work in a high-stress environment, you may well increase your risk of hypertension – high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, which can cause negative effects to your overall physical health, can be caused by a number of different factors, but prolonged stress is often the primary cause.

Hypertension occurs when your blood vessels constrict due to a permanent reduction in the cross-sectional area as a result of atheroma deposits or a temporary narrowing due to an increase in hormonal production. When your blood pressure is too high, you may experience headaches or dizziness but, in many cases, there will be no symptoms. And that is the danger because high blood pressure over a long period of time can lead to a stroke which will permanently damage your heart. So, before this happens, it is important to figure out ways to either get rid of all the stress factors (stressors) in your everyday life.  Alternatively, you must find ways to cope with the effects of your stress before they cause you cardiac damage that is irreparable.

How to Minimise Stress

There are usually ways to either avoid or mitigate stress and its effects, but if you already have high blood pressure, then see your doctor to find out what you can do to bring it down either by a change in lifestyle or by medication – or both – to get it under control.

It is important to appreciate that you can help yourself to reduce stress, improve your health and lower your blood pressure in a number of ways. You need to carefully watch your diet to avoid foods that are high in salt. Make sure you exercise on a regular basis in order to help to get the blood flowing through your body’s arterial system that will also help you to keep to a healthy weight. Finally, you should ensure that in addition to an optimum body weight that your cholesterol is within recommended limits – currently under 5, but even better if under 4.

Other than these physical changes, the most important factor for your health is to manage your stress levels. You must learn not to concern yourself with things that are beyond your control i.e. those issues that are greater than the resources, which are available to you, to effectively combat them.  If you fail to understand this vital point, then you will always suffer from the effects of stress – and those effects can, sometimes, be fatal.

Stress indicates that you have lost control over a particular situation, at work or at home. It means that your mind, and inevitably your body, has recognized and accepted that you do not have the means available to you to fight the problem that confronts you. That problem could be physical or mental but will probably be the latter as the former is usually of a short duration. A typical example might be bullying at work by a boss who feels the need to intimidate you every working day and from whom there is no obvious escape or solution other than to change your job.

Another frequent problem that inevitably causes stress is financial. Your expenditure exceeds your current income and you can find no way to reduce the first or to increase the second. In other words, your resources available to you are insufficient to meet, or fight, the current challenges. Your body recognizes this issue as a serious challenge to your health, safety or security, and automatically increases the production of cortisol – the so called ‘stress hormone’.  This will increase both your heart rate and your blood pressure in order to meet the perceived challenge but, unfortunately, it can do neither because in most cases the challenge is not physical. Your body is put in a high state of alert to fight an intruder, where there is none, the result is stress. In instances where this happens on a frequent or prolonged basis, then your body will suffer damage as a result.

Be aware of those factors in your life that can cause you to feel stress and avoid those situations and those people.

Life is too short.

Carole Spiers FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE FISMA, FPSA, MIHPE is a leading international Business Stress Consultant and currently serves as the Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK (ISMAUK). On their behalf, she founded Stress Awareness Day ... (Read More)

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