Anxiety Elevates Blood Pressure

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Anxiety is a part of life. We all feel it when we are late for a job interview, worrying about our finances or even stuck in traffic. There is little doubt that feeling anxious can elevate blood pressure, at least in the short term.

“Our mind and our thoughts certainly are connected to our hearts,” says Christopher Celano, associate director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

When something makes you anxious-whether it’s a life-threatening emergency or a persistent worry-your sympathetic nervous system initiates a fight-or-flight response that raises your heart rate and blood pressure.

Finding Balance

A little anxiety can be motivating as it can help you start a new exercise routine or make healthier food choices. But action in the nervous system needs to be balanced out by activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows down heart rate and increases digestion. (Unlike the “fight or flight” response.) The balance between the two is essential for heart health. When people are chronically anxious, they may experience changes to their immune system, blood vessels, and platelets that may contribute to heart disease says Celano.

A 2015 research review published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found that people who experience high levels of anxiety are more likely to develop hypertension that those who aren’t as anxious. One of the studies found that if a person’s anxiety levels are elevated for long persons, the resulting nervous-system activity could raise blood pressure and promote arterial disease. The links between chronic anxiety and higher rates of hypertension and heart problems are worth taking seriously.

How can you tell if your anxiety is the type that could hurt your heart in the long run? The most straightforward answer is to try and distinguish whether or not the anxiety is so severe that it is impacting your ability to properly function in life. If you feel that you worry to much about a variety of things on most days and that it is affecting your sleep, mood or relationships then it may be the type that can lead to hypertension or heart trouble and it is best to speak to a physician or other provider about it. 

Easing Anxiety

There are a number of ways to deal with anxiety, from mind-body approaches like meditation, acupuncture and lifestyle changes-including exercise and nutrition. Getting enough rest a night and cutting out caffeine can also help ease anxiety for some people. Even if anxiety doesn’t contribute to heart disease, keeping your worrying in check and finding balance is still an important aspect of maintaining a high quality of life.

Acupuncture Decreases Stress and Anxiety

Modern Acupuncture® is a natural stress relief solution and the leading provider of acupuncture in the U.S. The most studied theories show that acupuncture stimulates the body to release naturally produced “feel good” endorphins and stimulate the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” response in our body, alleviating symptoms associated with stress.


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