Stress and anxiety make your heart beat harder and push up your blood pressure at least in the short term due to the release of the hormone narrowing your blood vessels.
That is how the “white coat” effect comes about – you get raised blood pressure because you are anxious having your blood pressure taken!
But there is conflicting medical evidence about whether anxiety or stress cause permanent high blood pressure.
If you have chronic anxiety and have persistently raised blood pressure as a result some damage may be done to your arteries but it would be rare for anyone to live in a constant state of anxiety or stress. You are not stressed or anxious when asleep for example even if you are highly anxious all the time you are awake.
So why is stress so closely linked to high blood pressure in the media and popular medical press?
It may be because stressful or anxiety producing situations can temporarily raise your blood pressure and if you already have high blood pressure then that can be dangerous.
Even if it is not 100% certain whether normal stress has a long term harmful effect on your blood pressure, it makes sense to take life more calmly.
A study of 300 men in the US found that those reporting high levels of stress had blood pressure which was raised by the equivalent of 20 years in age.
Researchers have also found that those who feel less in control of their lives have a tendency to experience higher blood pressure than those who take life calmly.
So if you have high blood pressure or even if you just want to be generally healthy, it makes sense to avoid getting wound up about everything, to take time to relax every day and to learn some practical skills for coping with situations you tend to come across which make you feel that you have no control over what happens to you.
It’s not easy to learn to relax without using some kind of technique no matter how much you tell yourself to calm down. But you can learn to relax by using a slow breathing technique, yoga or self hypnosis. It is well worth the effort.