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Published: April, 2014; Vol 10, Num 11

 

 

Take the Pressure Off:

Manage Your Stress

This is the third in a series of articles discussing high blood pressure and what you can do to reduce your risk. 

You might not think something that is a daily occurrence in life could also be a threat, but that's the truth about stress. The stress response or "fight or flight" reaction, a surge of adrenaline and other hormones that your body releases whenever you confront everyday challenges and frustrations, speeds your breathing and your heart rate. It can also make your blood pressure rise.

Picture yourself in a traffic jam. Getting angry, gripping the steering wheel, cursing, honking and tailgating are responses that can get your heart rate and blood pressure to soar. A healthier response that can keep your heart rate and blood pressure down is to take a deep breath, find a good radio station and realize there is nothing you can do to make the traffic go away.

It is essential to your health to effectively manage stress and it is crucial to realize that you are in control of how you react in most circumstances. People who are frequently in a state of stress are at increased risk for developing chronic high blood pressure – also called hypertension – and other serious conditions.

Stress Management and Health Assistance from the LHSFNA

The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division offers a workshop on stress management in the workplace.

The Division can also schedule a health fair where blood pressure and other medical concerns can be checked for free and without having to take time off to go elsewhere for screenings.

For more information and to schedule these services, call 202-628-5465.

Blood Pressure and Stress

Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against the artery walls as the heart pumps blood through the body. People who consistently have blood pressure readings measuring at or above 140/90 mm Hg have high blood pressure. (Blood pressure readings that are consistently between 120/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg indicate prehypertension and that you should take steps now to prevent high blood pressure.) Untreated high blood pressure can damage artery walls. This increases the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure.

Behavior and Stress

Behaviors that some people engage in when dealing with ongoing situations that can make them feel stressed – financial difficulties and tensions at work or at home, for example – can further increase the likelihood for developing high blood pressure and other serious conditions. These behaviors include smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating, which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Manage your stress and minimize your risk for high blood pressure by:

  • Recognizing symptoms of stress, including feeling overwhelmed or irritable;
  • Setting rules for turning off cell phones and other devices when at home or establishing certain times for returning business calls;
  • Making a list of work and personal tasks according to priority;
  • Taking short breaks of a minute or two throughout the day to stand, stretch and breathe deeply;
  • Replacing unhealthy coping strategies such as eating junk food, smoking or drinking alcohol with healthy behaviors including exercising, meditating or just talking with friends and family;
  • Eating right, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and engaging in regular physical activities such as going to the gym, walking and taking time off;
  • Asking for professional support and, if available, taking advantage of stress management resources available through Member Assistance Programs (MAPs).

The LHSFNA has a variety of brochures and health alerts pertaining to stress management, high blood pressure, heart disease, nutrition and general wellness. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.

Next month, a look at how alcohol affects blood pressure.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]