Are you feeling stressed? Constantly worrying and unable to sleep? If so, you could be endangering your life! Follow these simple 8 steps to reduce stress, blood pressure and stroke. It might just save your life.
You don’t need to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to suffer from the symptoms of stress and high blood pressure. It can affect anyone, at any age.
Regrettably, even in the 21st century, there is still a stigma attached to people who experience stress and mental health problems. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of us are reluctant to admit that we even have a problem. We will not admit that we are struggling to cope for fear of being branded a failure.
But the worse thing you could possibly do, is to ignore the signs and symptoms that you are not coping with your stress.
These signs may not be as obvious as those irritating red and yellow warning lights that appear on your car from time to time, but they are there nonetheless.
The sooner you face up to your stress, the better.
Chronic stress leads to high blood pressure (hypertension) and potentially the risk of suffering a stroke. Strokes can cause serious disability and even death.
The expression ‘bursting a blood vessel,’ which is commonly used to describe an irate individual, did not arise by accident!
Symptoms of Stress
Stress affects different people in different ways and we all have varying degrees of tolerance to stressful situations.
However, stress tends to ‘creep up’ on you and, before you know it, the pressure is so immense that you can be feeling totally overwhelmed and unable to cope.
Some of the more common symptoms to look out for include:
- Depression / Black Moods
- Irritability / Bad Temper
- Forgetfulness / Confusion / Lack of Concentration / Clumsiness
- Obsessive / Irrational Thoughts
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Unsocial Behaviour
- Consuming More Alcohol
- Smoking More
- Eating More / Less Than Usual
- Talking Faster
You may also experience physical symptoms such as:
- Headaches / Migraine
- Chest Pains / Breathlessness
- Random Muscle Pain
- Stomach / Bowel Changes
- Increased Bladder Frequency
- Lack of Libido
The Stress Vicious Cycle
Left untreated, chronic stress can lead to further medical problems such as:
- Peptic Ulcers
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
In turn, hypertension carries its own serious complications such as risks of:
- Heart Attack
As being ill causes stress, the process is repeated, over and over. Life may even begin to feel like a never ending ride on a carousel.
Blood Pressure Monitoring
If you are feeling stressed, it is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly.
Two readings are taken when your blood pressure is measured. These are the systolic and diastolic pressures.
Systolic pressure is the pressure of blood against the artery walls when your heart is beating.
Diastolic pressure is the pressure between heartbeats.
I tend to think of this as: pressure when the heart is beating (systolic) and pressure when the heart is not beating (diastolic).
Blood pressure readings are always given as two numbers. The top figure is the systolic pressure and the bottom figure is the diastolic pressure.
So, if your reading was 120/80, normally said as 120 over 80, you would have a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80.
Beware White Coat Syndrome
An important point to mention here is that you do need several measurements to determine what your true blood pressure reading is and also to gauge what is ‘normal’ for you.
Aside from varying throughout the day, blood pressure readings can sometimes register as being artificially high.
This is because some people can become anxious about seeing a doctor or being in a medical environment. This anxiety can temporarily raise their blood pressure.
This is a recognised phenomenon termed ‘white coat syndrome,’ or ‘white coat hypertension.’
Regular monitoring of your blood pressure at home can help overcome this problem.
Automatic Blood Pressure Monitors are relatively cheap, easy to use and an effective means of regularly monitoring your blood pressure.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a specific branch of the brain is cut off.
As serious as the consequences can be, prompt recognition of the signs of a stroke can help prevent permanent brain damage.
Common stroke symptoms can be easily recalled with the acronym F-A-S-T.
- Face: Is the face drooping on one side? Is the patient able to smile? Is their mouth or eye drooping?
- Arms: Is the patient able to lift both arms up vertically? Can they keep them there or is one arm weak or numb?
- Speech: Is their speech coherent or is it garbled, confused or slurred? Is the patient able to speak, despite being conscious?
- Time: Don’t delay, time is critical. If these symptoms are present, you need to call the emergency services and get medical assistance immediately!
There are also other, less common symptoms of stroke which include sudden dizzinesss, loss of vision/blurred vision and generalised weakness.
Time is of the essence with a suspected stroke victim and, if in doubt, always seek immediate medical assistance.
Managing Stress And Reducing The Risk Of Stroke
There are some very simple and relatively basic steps that you can take to counteract the effects of stress, reduce blood pressure and minimise the risk of stroke. Here are the top 8.
1. Eat A Healthy Diet
Eat a balanced, low fat diet with plenty of fibre, fruit and vegetables. This will help to reduce cholesterol levels as well as lowering blood pressure. Also, if you are stressed, then you should cut back on salt as this increases blood pressure. If you are struggling to eat your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, consider investing in a juicer. You can quickly make up some appetising juices to kick start your day.
2. Check Your BMI and Maintain a Healthy Weight
If your body mass index (BMI) is over 30 then you are classed as clinically obese. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to suffer from high blood pressure and have an increased risk of stroke. Furthermore, people who carry excess body fat around their waist, commonly referred to as ‘apple shaped,’ have a higher risk of stroke. This is because toxic visceral fat is being stored around the vital organs. This fat can only be seen by a CAT or MRI scan. Therefore, even if you have a normal BMI, if your diet is unhealthy, then you could still be storing visceral fat.
If you are looking for a jump start to loosing weight, then you might want to consider a juice fast. From 1 to 3 days, you can begin to re-educate your palette and give your weight loss a boost.
3. Take Regular Exercise
Just 30 minutes of regular exercise a day can help minimise the effects of stress, reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of stroke. Exercise is also one of the easiest ways to help maintain a normal healthy weight. Moderate walking, especially in the fresh air, is a great tonic. Alternatively, a home gym workout can be just as effective. Using a cross trainer or elliptical trainer can be a great stress reliever and it doesn’t take much room to accommodate at home.
4. Practise Relaxation Techniques
There are many ways that you can diffuse stress and tension by practising some deep breathing techniques or meditating. You can also join a yoga class or relax with an aromatherapy massage.
5. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Excess caffeine intake can increase blood pressure. So cut down on the number of cups of coffee and other caffeine rich drinks, such as cola, to less than 4 a day. Increase your water consumption to compensate and keep your body properly hydrated.
6. Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Many people turn to alcohol as a means of reducing their stress levels. The danger is that, before too long, this drinking pattern become the norm, with devastating consequences.
7. Maintain A Stress Diary
This can be a useful tool in determining what triggers your stress and what effect it has on you. Identifying the causes of stress is the first step in finding suitable solutions.
8. Quit Smoking
Recommending you quit smoking, whilst under extreme pressure, may seem like something of an oxymoron! However, smokers are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke as in comparison to non-smokers. This is because smoking causes a build up of plaque in the artery walls. This obstruction leads to hypertension and the development of blood clots. This then increases the potential for strokes to occur.
Seek Medical Assistance
If in doubt or if you feel that your symptoms are not improving or are becoming worse then you should always seek medical intervention. Your health practitioner may prescribe medication to help you in the short term and refer you to a counsellor or support group.