The Connection Between Blood Pressure and Mental Health: Why Monitoring Matters

It’s no secret that mental and physical health is equally important, but many people aren’t aware of the different ways the two are linked. Think of your health like a scale; you can’t alter something on one side without the other side changing – that’s why it’s so important to understand how your body and brain work.

Outside of your annual physical, there are things you can do to monitor and improve your health. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between blood pressure and mental health and what you can do to help ensure your body is as balanced as possible.

How to Identify High Blood Pressure

According to experts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), when blood pressure falls between 130 and 139/80 and 89, it’s considered hypertensive. Stage 2 hypertension, a more severe type of high blood pressure, begins when it rises above 140/90.

However, despite the severity of rising blood pressure, it often exhibits no noticeable symptoms until it reaches a severe stage. That means you may not know when you have a blood pressure spike, especially if it’s not on your radar of health factors to monitor.

Some common signs and symptoms of high blood pressure include headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, confusion, and shortness of breath. Some people may also experience vision changes, such as blurred vision, double vision, or vision loss.

In more severe cases, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. It’s essential to regularly monitor blood pressure and talk with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your already existing symptoms worsen over time. Early detection and treatment can significantly reduce the risk of complications and improve overall health outcomes.

The Link Between Blood Pressure and Mental Health

Research has shown that there is a strong connection between hypertension, or high blood pressure, and mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, and more. If you have high blood pressure, you may be more likely to experience symptoms of these conditions. But how?

As your blood pressure increases, the amounts of blood and oxygen that flow to your brain decrease. When this happens, the chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain become imbalanced, leading to what we know as anxiety and depression – and more.

Stress also worsens this cycle, given that it triggers your fight-or-flight system. This raises your cortisol levels, triggering high blood pressure. Think of this surge of hormones like a flood washing over your brain; it overwhelms it, making it difficult for it to function normally. Headaches, fatigue, and other physical symptoms that happen when your blood pressure rises also contribute to worsening mental health.

Lifestyle Changes for Managing Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure, taking steps to lower it is vital. Maintaining your mental and physical health can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it in the long run when you can live a happier, healthier, and longer life. Here are some practical tips to help you achieve a healthier blood pressure.

Know your family history.

Genetics have a significant influence on your likelihood of developing hypertension, so be aware if you have family members who struggle with it or have received a diagnosis in the past.

Monitor your blood pressure regularly.

While your doctor should measure it every time you visit, it’s also essential to keep an eye on it at home. Most major retailers sell blood pressure cuffs or traditional monitors. Be sure to keep a log of your blood pressure numbers after each measurement to see how it progresses over time.

Engage in physical activity.

While some professionals recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, you don’t have to go to the gym to make this happen. You can vacuum, go up and down the steps a few extra times, or walk around your neighborhood to lower your blood pressure. Exercise also doubles as a great way to balance your mental health.

Practice stress-reducing techniques.

Regular meditation and deep breathing can help lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety and depression. You can start with just a few minutes a day and gradually increase as you become more comfortable with the practice.

Follow a balanced diet.

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. It can help lower blood pressure and improve overall health. Aim to include a variety of colors on your plate to ensure you’re getting a range of nutrients.

Get enough sleep and practice good sleep hygiene.

Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night to help regulate blood pressure and overall health. Establish a bedtime routine to signal your body that it’s time to sleep, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath. Make your sleep environment comfortable, dark, quiet, and cool to promote better sleep.

Limit alcohol and sodium intake.

Excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure, so aim to limit drinks to no more than one per day for women and two per day for men. Be mindful of sodium levels in packaged foods and season with herbs and spices instead of salt. Aim for no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Holistic Health Care Available on Your Phone

Finding a mental health or primary care provider isn’t always easy, especially if you have complex medical and mental health diagnoses. Virtual health care makes seeing the providers you need more manageable and more accessible without the hassle of getting in your car and driving. At Balance Psychiatric Services, you can see one of our psychiatric mental health or family nurse practitioners without ever leaving your home.

Even better, we focus on providing holistic care, meaning we look at the entire body and brain rather than solely focusing on one or the other. By understanding the connection between different parts of your health, like blood pressure and mental health, we can help you take steps toward improving your overall well-being.

Call us at 412-467-6410 to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.