Can Stress Cause High Blood Pressure?

Worried and Nervous Young Muslim Girl

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When you are stressed, your body responds in a couple of ways. Your heart rate and pulse quicken, your muscles tighten, and your blood pressure also rises. Being in a constant state of stress has been linked to the development of high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension.

High blood pressure is a condition that increases your risk of developing heart conditions. If left undiagnosed, it can be fatal. In this article, learn how exactly stress and high blood pressure are connected and how stress can trigger the development of high blood pressure.  

The Connection Between Stress and High Blood Pressure

It’s established that your blood pressure may rise when you are in a stressful situation. When stressed, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. The sudden surge of these hormones triggers a phenomenon known as a “fight or flight” response.

When your body is in this state, your heart rate quickens, your blood levels constrict, and your blood pressure levels rise. However, stress doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll continue living with elevated blood pressure. These symptoms dissipate once the stressor is eliminated and your blood pressure levels return to normal. There are two forms of stress: acute and chronic stress. 

Acute Stress

Acute stress is typically temporary, brought on by a single event that will pass with time. For instance, you might feel acute stress while in the middle of an argument, but the sensation will pass once the dispute has been resolved. While your blood pressure might spike when you are feeling acute stress, it’s unlikely to remain elevated. It’s also normal for your blood pressure levels to fluctuate throughout the day based on various factors. However, if left unchecked, it’s possible for acute stress to develop into chronic stress. If you continue to expose yourself to a stressor after your first encounter with the stressor, it can cause chronic stress to develop. 

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress, on the other hand, is more long-term than acute stress. With chronic stress, you are in a state of stress for a prolonged period. For instance, if you work in a demanding job that causes stress, you might feel stressed for as long as you are in that job. While researchers are a little unclear on the link between chronic stress and high blood pressure, chronic stress has been identified as one of the most likely culprits causing the development of high blood pressure. 

One theory is that stress causes you to develop unhealthy habits that can lead to medical complications such as high blood pressure. When you are stressed, you are more likely to experience sleeping difficulties. You are also more likely to pick up unhealthy habits to help cope with stress, such as smoking, binge eating, or drinking alcohol excessively. These have been shown to heighten your risk of high blood pressure significantly. In a 2019 study on the link between long-term stress and hypertension, researchers found that over time stress increased the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Complications of Stress and High Blood Pressure 

The main goal in managing high blood pressure is keeping your blood pressure levels within a normal range, and prolonged stress prevents that from happening. Research shows that stress can lead to further medical complications for people with high blood pressure. If left untreated or in a situation where your high blood pressure symptoms worsen, it can lead to complications such as kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease. 

Diagnosis of Stress and High Blood Pressure 

In many cases, chronic stress begins as acute stress. In such cases, you might not immediately notice that you are stressed. Stress may manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, chest pain, and trouble sleeping. Your healthcare provider can diagnose high blood pressure. A blood pressure cuff will be used to measure your blood pressure levels; if you have consistent high readings over two or more appointments, you might be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure levels should be less than 120/80mm Hg for adults.

Treatment of Stress and High Blood Pressure 

Treatment for high blood pressure comprises a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. While stress doesn’t need to be treated with medication, adopting healthy lifestyle changes will help you keep it in check. In specific scenarios, people with high blood pressure and experiencing severe stress might be prescribed beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are used to alleviate symptoms of stress.

Coping With Stress and High Blood Pressure 

While high blood pressure needs to be managed with a combination of medical intervention and lifestyle changes, you can manage stress by making simple lifestyle changes. Keeping your stress in check is one way to prevent high blood pressure from developing. Lifestyle changes that you can make include: 

  • Eliminating stressors: You might not always be in a position to eliminate all stressors from your life. However, eliminating stressors, you have control over goes a long way in helping you manage your health. Removing stressors from your life is essential if you have high blood pressure. Being constantly exposed to stressful situations when you have high blood pressure can worsen your condition.
  • Exercise regularly: The power of exercise in relation to maintaining a healthy lifestyle can’t be overemphasized. Exercising regularly can help reduce stress symptoms. Regular exercise is also essential for people with high blood pressure. Research shows that it can help manage symptoms of the condition. 
  • Adopt a healthier diet: The average person should adopt a healthy diet for optimum health. It’s even more critical for people who are stressed or have high blood pressure to maintain healthy diets. If you have high blood pressure, you should avoid foods high in salt and fat as these can cause your blood pressure to spike. 

If you have high blood pressure, making the above lifestyle changes is also essential to helping you manage your condition. 


While stress might not directly cause high blood pressure, there’s sufficient evidence to show that it affects its development. Furthermore, people living with high blood pressure experience worsening symptoms when exposed to a stressful situation for prolonged periods. 

A Word From Verywell

Stress and high blood pressure are both conditions that can be effectively managed by making healthy lifestyle changes. Exercising regularly, eliminating stressors, and maintaining a healthy diet positively affect people living with either or both conditions. While medical intervention is required for high blood pressure, combining it with these healthy lifestyle changes has been shown to cause a significant improvement in your symptoms. 

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Library of Medicine. Stress and your health. May 10, 2020

  3. Spruill TM, Butler MJ, Thomas SJ, et al. Association between high perceived stress over time and incident hypertension in black adults: findings from the jackson heart study. JAHA. 2019;8(21):e012139.

  4. UPMC. 8 negative effects of uncontrolled high blood pressure.

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Stress: signs, symptoms, management & prevention. January 28, 2021

  6. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. High Blood Pressure. March 24, 2022

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  8. Hegde SM, Solomon SD. Influence of physical activity on hypertension and cardiac structure and function. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2015;17(10):77.

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.