Factors affecting blood pressure
High stress levels
The body’s natural response to stress, irrespective of whether this is physical or emotional, is to produce a set of chemicals and hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that allows us to cope with this. Although this can be useful when stressful periods are short and infrequent, prolonged exposure to stress can result in high blood pressure and its associated health risks.
A diet high in salt and processed foods can lead to water retention which results in higher blood volume. Over time this can lead to high blood pressure and therefore one of the first measures we advise patients to take, in order to reduce their blood pressure, is to modify their diet. As part of our holistic patient approach, we work closely with dieticians who can advise our patients if required.
Inevitably, ageing affects our circulation. As we grow older the compliance of our blood vessels is reduced and this increased vessel stiffness can result in high blood pressure (especially with regards to the diastolic pressure).
A significant number of medications can cause increased blood pressure. These include over the counter anti-inflammatory, decongestant and anti-migraine medications, hormonal therapy (such as steroid treatment) as well as the oral contraceptive pill.
While a small amount of alcohol consumption is not associated with consistently high blood pressure, beyond the recommended levels can be; this is primarily because alcohol dehydrates the body. The way in which the body defends against this is to generate a series of hormones to retain the body’s water such as the renin hormone (produced by the kidneys), the Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH, produced by the brain) and cortisol, a natural steroid (produced by the adrenal glands). Consistently high levels of these hormones, from excessive alcohol, can result in blood vessel and blood volume changes which, ultimately, lead to high blood pressure.
When exercising (whether that is with aerobic ‘cardio’ or anaerobic ‘resistance’ exercise) your blood pressure tends to elevate. This is a healthy response as it allows more blood, and therefore oxygen and nutrients, to be delivered to your muscles.
This also allows for better blood pressure regulation and, therefore, prolonged inactivity can predispose to hypertension.