Updated 07 July 2014

Stress and hypertension

You may have been told that you’re “hyper-tense” or have an A-type personality, and that you have hypertension because you’re too wound-up or stressed.

You may have been told that you’re “hyper-tense” or have an A-type personality, and that you have hypertension because you’re too wound-up or stressed. So does stress cause hypertension?

The answer is no: stress can most certainly increase your blood pressure by accelerating your heart rate. But that’s a temporary state. It enables you to respond to threats, triggering the so-called fight-or-flight response.

But it’s incorrect to say that stress causes permanently raised blood pressure, or hypertension. Stress can cause your blood pressure to soar, but it will revert to its normal levels once the source of stress is removed.

A bewildering number of events have been found to increase blood pressure – everything from hearing a baby cry to talking on the telephone. But none of these events will cause hypertension.

Researchers have found no evidence that regular increases in blood pressure do any damage to your blood vessels or organs. So working in a stressful environment or playing strenuous, demanding sports each day won’t cause hypertension.

It’s only when your body is subjected to continuously elevated levels of blood pressure that there’s any danger. There’s also no evidence that having a so-called A-type personality puts you in any danger.

A-type personalities are described as being ambitious perfectionists who’re competitive and impatient.

Studies have, however, found that some blue-collar workers who had limited education and were in stressful positions over which they had no control may eventually developed hypertension. Men who continually lived beyond their means and were preoccupied with improving their financial status also risked developing hypertension over time.

Read more:
How do I cope with stress?
Alcohol and hypertension


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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