Some people experience white coat hypertension, when blood pressure is elevated in the doctor’s office but not in other settings. While white coat hypertension was formerly considered simple nervousness, recent research suggests otherwise.
A study published in the journal Hypertension found that people with white coat hypertension are at a significantly greater risk for developing sustained high blood pressure than people who have normal blood pressure. One possible explanation is that people with white coat hypertension have a harder time managing stress and anxiety.
Stress and hypertension have often been linked, but researchers are still looking into a direct relationship between the two. Still, the best advice to hypertensive patients: Try to relax.
When you are stressed, your body sends stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — into the bloodstream. These hormones create a temporary spike in blood pressure, causing your heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow. When the stressful situation is over, blood pressure goes back to its normal level. Chronic stress, however, may cause your body to stay in this highly-charged state longer than natural.
Good sleep can prevent and manage high blood pressure. Most people experience a dip in blood pressure during the deepest stage of sleep (also known as slow wave sleep), which is the body’s normal and healthy reaction to sleep. Typically people spend 90 minutes to two hours in slow wave sleep per night. A recent study published in Hypertension found that men who got less slow wave sleep each night were a higher risk for hypertension than men who got more deep sleep.
Excessive salt raises blood pressure. Too much sodium can cause water retention that puts increased pressure on your heart and blood vessels. People with high blood pressure and those at a high risk for developing hypertension, including adults over 50 and black men and women, should have no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily (less than 3/4 teaspoon) of salt. Stick to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium (about one teaspoon of salt), per day.
Most dietary sodium comes from processed foods. Rules of thumb are to choose foods with five percent or less of the daily value of sodium per serving and opt for fresh poultry, fish and lean meats, rather than canned, smoked or processed. Similarly, fresh or frozen vegetables are better than canned.