Stress and High Blood Pressure Are Correlational, Not Causal—Week of 12/19/22

Every week I will be reviewing a reputable news article and engaging with it from a mental health professional standpoint. These will be short posts following a three segment model: 1. The News=short synopsis of article 2. The View= My initial impression of the article, and the news impact in the mental health world 3. The Reflection= Useful ways to engage with this information/applications to caring for our mental health. These posts will be published 8am EST on Mondays!

The News= It is a common myth that stress and high blood pressure have a causal correlation. This news article covers research that confirms that this correlation is not causation, and often there isn’t even strong correlation to stress and blood pressure. There are stronger links to diet, exercise, genetics, and close follow up with healthcare that show impact on blood pressure. Conversely, this research also shows that stress based reduction strategies also don’t have long lasting impact on blood pressure management.

Here is the article, which also includes further links to good info.

The View= Why is this important news? There is a lot of emphasis on finding ways to control anxiety and our response to stress, which can often lead to feeling even more stress when we feel like we aren’t able to make sustainable improvements in more objective measures, such as, our blood pressure/health. This will often result in us feeling more anxious about not being able to control our anxiety, and our quality of life takes a hit as we feel like we are losing control of our health. In short, it isn’t a mystified route that we need to take to figure out the best way to care for ourselves. We can anchor down in knowns, choices, and resources.

Photo by Mufid Majnun— Found on

The Reflection= So what do I mean by we can focus on the knowns, and choices? Here are some questions that help formulate this answer. When we know we are stressed, what do we notice we end up doing more or less of? For some of us we might notice that we feel more fatigued, more sedentary and isolate more. We might eat more things that have higher sodium, or notice our diet changes dramatically. These things are typically not static changes, but ebb and flow with stress in intensity. In general, maybe these aren’t such huge issues, but they might be opportunities to slightly modify how it is we want to treat ourselves. We might pause and be able to make choices that can better impact our health if that is a value we are wanting to focus on. Sometimes this can mean intentionally seeking out our community, even if we are feeling down. Maybe its seeking out our PCP, even if we are scared or unsure of what will be found. Maybe its bringing attention to those moments if we feel like we are binging, or not eating enough, and shift our choices.

This is a more tangible way to manage the part of response to our stress that may have more prolonged impact on our physical health and blood pressure. Overall, the best choice we can make, when we notice that our stress is changing the way we are operating, is to make sure we are making a point to follow up with a primary care physician. They can help us figure out the best ways to manage blood pressure when there are so many variables at play.

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