High blood pressure and stress can be dangerous – how to keep calm amid COVID-19 pandemic
High blood pressure is a notorious silent killer. But if you already know you have the condition, what’s the best way to lower your reading? A doctor reveals her insights into the condition.
During this pandemic, some people may be feeling anxious or stressed.
This could be due to a number of factors, such as finding uncertainty stressful, worrying over loved ones and residing with not-so-great company.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains that high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, causes the heart to work extra hard to pump blood around the body.
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This is because hypertension results in narrow, hardened and damaged arteries – and fatty material can build up inside of them.
As a result, the passageway for blood to travel through is significantly smaller than in a person with normal blood pressure.
“Stress can cause our blood pressure to elevate,” Dr Najia Shaikh begins.
“When we’re overwhelmed with stress, our bodies go into ‘fight-or-flight’ mode which triggers our hypothalamus – a tiny region at the base of our brain – to set off an alarm system in the body.
“Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts our adrenal glands – located atop our kidneys – to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.”
Dr Shaikh states that adrenaline “increases our heart rate” and “elevates blood pressure”.
Detailing the adverse effects of chronic stress, Dr Shaikh adds: “If there are too many episodes of stress over a long period of time, it can cause inflammation in our arteries, which could be a contributing factor to heart attacks.”
Dr Shaikh recognises that people with hypertension are “considered high risk” of developing “worse symptoms of Covid-19” than those with a normal blood pressure reading.
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To help manage feelings of stress, and to help lower blood pressure, Dr Shaikh details ways to calm down during the coronavirus pandemic.
Her first recommendation is to “partake in regular daily exercise”.
People are currently allowed to leave their homes for one form of exercise per day – whether it be walking, jogging or running.
Another consideration is diet. Dr Shaikh stands by the familiar adage to “eat a healthy, balanced diet”.
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Moreover Dr Shaikh suggests to “only read or watch the news at designated hours to stop it being all consuming”.
Having a break from the latest updates about coronavirus may help to ease feelings of unease.
To maintain healthy sleeping patterns is encouraged by “staying phone and electronic free before bed”.
And for those having to shield away indoors, Dr Shaikh promotes “yoga or meditation to help you relax and clear the mind”.
Dr Shaikh advocates “keeping up social connections by talking to friends and family over the phone and by video calls”.
In these unprecedented times, she adds to “stay positive and practise gratitude”.
For more healthy advice, she says to “reduce caffeine intake”.
Lastly noting to “cut down smoking and alcohol consumption” if relevant, too.
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