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Hypertension is commonly caused by dietary and lifestyle factors. These are the first to be reviewed when our BP readings are consistently elevated. First line defence techniques such as improving our diet and becoming more active are beneficial. They are, however, only part of the picture. What is often overlooked is the effect of our thought patterns on our blood pressure.
As a Man Thinketh, So He Becomes:
James Allen’s famous aphorism – as a man thinketh so he becomes – says that our dominant thoughts affect our well being, for good or for bad. Our subconscious mind hears our “chatter” and tries to make those thoughts our reality. If we are worried, for example, about out our job security or keeping up the mortgage repayments, then our subconscious mind interprets our anxiety by releasing chemicals into our blood that elevate out blood pressure. This is anxiety or stress related hypertension, which we sometimes try to alleviate through increased smoking unhealthy and drinking. We are, of course, only making our hypertension worse.
A study of psychology and hypertension carried out by the University of Padua, Italy confirmed that:
- depression and
have been often associated with the development of hypertension (Semplicini and Realdi, University of Padua Medical School, 2009).
We can apply this knowledge to turn the problem around by:
- changing what we think about, and
- using relaxation techniques.
Recognizing the problem
Our anxiety is caused, at least in part, by the fear of the unknown. We do not know what is going to happen and we think we have no control over circumstances. If work fears are a cause of our hypertension, we can work to reduce or eliminate them. It might help to make an assessment of the likely impact of losing a job and try to plan for such circumstances.
Changing what we think about
Human nature is for our self-defense mechanism to engage. In the case of anxiety related hypertension, it is not uncommon for us to try to ignore the problem and hope it will go away. This is self-deception and can add further stress burdens, making our condition worse.
Just as with a dietary factor in our high blood pressure, it would be wise to recognize the problem and do something about it. Planning is a form of action. Taking positive action to reduce or eliminate the problem can be cathartic. So if anxiety is fuelling our high blood pressure, we can counter it by altering the predominant subject of our thoughts away from worrying to actively dealing with the cause of our concerns.
There are two types of relaxation – active relaxation and passive relaxation. Engaging in an activity or sport that you enjoy which is a break from your normal routine can be relaxing to both body and mind. Passive relaxation can be as simple as finding a peaceful place and quieting your mind for 20 minutes. This will immediately lower your blood pressure.
If you have anxiety related hypertension, recognize that defensive behaviour is more likely to harm you than help you. You should also do something about the psychological factors. It starts with acknowledgement and gets easier by taking positive action. There is a dynamic relationship between the nature of our predominant thoughts and our bodies especially our blood pressure.