High blood pressure risk: Could a SINGLE stressful event trigger DEADLY symptoms?

High blood pressure - or hypertension - affects nine million people in the UK, and seven million who are undiagnosed.

Well known risk factors include eating too much salt, smoking and not doing enough exercise.

Stress has also been linked to the potentially-deadly condition.

But is it possible for a pressured job or being in a car crash to lead to a diagnosis?

“Stressful situations can cause blood pressure to spike temporarily, as your body can produce a surge of hormones when you're in a stressful situation,” said Dr Clare Morrison.

“These hormones increase the blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.”

This means that a single very stressful experience is unlikely to cause a problem.

Constant stress, on the other hand, is a different story - but not directly.

“Patients with chronic stress are much more likely to develop life style behaviours that can cause high blood pressure,” explained Dr David Eckersall, GP with MedicSpot (medicspot.co.uk).

“Examples include being unable to fit regular exercise into their weekly routine, lack of sleep, and drinking too much alcohol.

“Additionally, if people feel time pressured they are much more likely to eat high salt ready meals and takeaways.

“Such behaviour over time will cause hardening of the arteries that reduces their flexibility.

“Developing high blood pressure would be almost inevitable.” 

However, in certain cases, such as if you are older or develop a long-term mental health problem, one stressful event could lead to high blood pressure.

“It is possible in frail, elderly patients who are less able to cope with sudden stressful events,” said Dr Eckersall.

“Bereavement for example is known to cause a release of the stress hormone cortisol which can cause narrowing of the arteries and therefore increase blood pressure.”

Dr Morrison added that certain types of emotional stress could lead to a much bigger problem.

“A single, very stressful event can have a temporary impact on blood pressure - and this can lead to depression and anxiety - triggering an increase in blood pressure,” she said.

However, while keeping stress to a minimum is important, other factors may be more important in reducing blood pressure.

“Try exercising for 30 minutes three times a week, drink only in moderation and eat less than 4g of salt per day,” advised Dr Eckersall.

“The risk of developing high blood pressure would then fall dramatically.”

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