Anxiety and high blood pressure can sometimes go hand in hand. Anxiety may lead to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure may trigger feelings of anxiety.
Doctors characterize anxiety as feelings of intense worry or fear. It causes many physical symptoms, including increased heart rate and shallow breathing. Periods of anxiety may also temporarily increase blood pressure.
Meanwhile, having long-term high blood pressure — which doctors refer to as hypertension — can cause people to feel anxious about their health and future.
Keep reading to learn more about the link between anxiety and high blood pressure, as well as how to treat both conditions.
Can anxiety cause high blood pressure?
Blood pressure may increase during a period of anxiety.
Anxiety causes the release of stress hormones in the body. These hormones trigger an increase in the heart rate and a narrowing of the blood vessels. Both of these changes cause blood pressure to rise, sometimes dramatically.
Doctors believe that anxiety is the reason behind white coat hypertension — a phenomenon in which some individuals consistently have higher blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office than at home.
Anxiety-induced increases in blood pressure are temporary and will subside once the anxiety lessens. Regularly having high levels of anxiety, however, can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels, in the same way that long-term hypertension can.
A 2015 reviewTrusted Source of existing research indicates that people who have intense anxiety are more at risk of hypertension than those with lower levels of anxiety. As a result, the researchers conclude that the early detection and treatment of anxiety are particularly important in people with hypertension.
Living with an anxiety disorder, whereby anxiety occurs every day and interferes with daily life, can also increase the likelihood of behaviors that contribute to hypertension. Examples include:
lack of exercise
One studyTrusted Source reports a link between anxiety and unhealthful lifestyle behaviors — including physical inactivity, smoking, and poor diet — in people at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Hypertension is one of the most significant risk factors for CVD.
Additionally, some medications for anxiety can increase blood pressure.
Can high blood pressure cause anxiety?
Having high blood pressure can trigger feelings of anxiety in some people. Those whom doctors diagnose with hypertension may worry about their health and their future.
Sometimes, the symptoms of hypertension, which include headaches, blurred vision, and shortness of breath, can be enough to cause panic or anxiety.
Anxiety and low blood pressure
Occasionally, anxiety works in the opposite way, causing a reduction in blood pressure.
This drop may occur because, during periods of intense anxiety, some people take very shallow breaths. The blood vessels then become wider, reducing blood pressure.
A 2011 study identified an association between the symptoms of anxiety and depression and a decrease in blood pressure, especially in people who have experienced a high level of anxiety symptoms over a prolonged period of decades.
This relationship also seems to work in both directions as low blood pressure, or hypotension, may sometimes cause anxiety and panic. Its symptoms can be similar to those of anxiety and include: