Managing Stress Can Lower Blood Pressure
May 31, 2001 -- Think stress is all in your head? Think again:
It may also be surging through your arteries, resulting in high blood pressure.
But new research shows that a program of stress management, supervised by
professionals and tailored to individual needs, can help lower that high blood
Reducing psychological stress and improving a person's ability
to cope with anger -- a principal component of stress -- appears to lower blood
pressure in people with high blood pressure, say Wolfgang Linden, PhD., and
colleagues at the department of psychology at the University of British
Twenty-seven men and women with high blood pressure received 10
hours of individualized stress management training under the supervision of
professional therapists. Treatment was tailored to the individual, but was
guided by the principles of "cognitive-behavior therapy" -- a
structured treatment that focuses on changing thoughts, beliefs, and
assumptions about stress and anger.
Measurements of blood pressure were obtained using monitors
that are fitted to the individual, allowing assessment of blood pressure
throughout a 24-hour day. Results were compared to 33 patients with high blood
pressure who did not receive the stress management program.
Blood pressure was significantly reduced in the group receiving
treatment, while there was no change in the group that did not participate in
the program. What's more, when the program was offered to individuals who
originally did not receive it, their blood pressure dropped too, Linden and
The study appears in the April 23 edition of the Archives of
Experts say that the relationship between stress and physical
symptoms such as high blood pressure is well known. But tackling stress and
reducing those symptoms is not necessarily a do-it-yourself task, they say.
Michael Mogadam, MD, assistant professor of medicine at
Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, tells WebMD that the
most critical components of stress are hostility, anger, and depression -- or
HAD, for short.
And he distinguishes HAD from the so-called "Type A"
personality who thrives on achievement and doing as many tasks at one time as
possible. It's not the Type A person, but the person with a lifelong store of
hostility, anger, and depression, who is most susceptible to the kind of stress
that can wreak havoc with blood pressure and health, he says.
"Someone with HAD has the same risk of [heart disease] as
someone who has high cholesterol," he tells WebMD.
And while there are some things individuals can do by
themselves to control HAD, many people will require the help of professionals.
Self-help strategies may work for some common everyday stresses, but they are
unlikely to have an effect on the kind of stress that causes high blood
pressure and heart disease, he says.