Ask the Doctors: Anxiety can contribute to high blood pressure

Anxiety is a condition estimated to affect close to one-fifth of us, making it the most common mental health issue in the United States.

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It’s important that you bring up your concerns about anxiety and blood pressure with your medical provider.

It’s important that you bring up your concerns about anxiety and blood pressure with your medical provider.

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Dear Doctors: I have been having anxiety, and now my blood pressure is getting high, too. Are they related? I understand medications might become necessary but would prefer to try nonmedical treatments first. Can you recommend supplements to reduce these issues?

Dear Reader: Close to half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, defined as a systolic blood pressure reading (that’s the top number) of 130 mmHg or more or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) higher than 80 mmHg.

Anxiety is a condition estimated to affect close to one-fifth of us, making it the most common mental health issue in the United States. It doesn’t always lead to high blood pressure but can be a contributory factor.

Surges of anxiety can cause blood pressure spikes, typically temporary. Over time, though, chronic anxiety can have an adverse effect on baseline blood pressure.

It’s important to bring up your concerns about anxiety and blood pressure with your medical provider. If your blood pressure isn’t dangerously or chronically high, a doctor can offer guidance as you make lifestyle changes — including improving diet, getting exercise and managing stress — assess and track the results and advise whether delaying medication might become a health risk.

Several supplements potentially might be helpful. For anxiety, these include magnesium, ashwagandha, lemon balm, chamomile, l-theanine and valerian root. Supplements such as garlic, green tea, magnesium and l-arginine can be useful in improving blood pressure. But check with your doctor. Some supplements can interact or interfere with medications or can have adverse side effects.

With our patients, we emphasize that supplements, however natural, never should be the sole approach. This holds true for both anxiety and blood pressure.

With anxiety, it’s important to identify any triggers that lead to that feeling. This can then help you understand the cause so you can make appropriate changes. Approaches can include meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, weightlifting, running or other aerobic exercise. Each has been shown to help.

Sleep is also extremely important. Studies have linked poor sleep to anxiety and elevated blood pressure. And please don’t discount therapy or, if needed, appropriate medication.

Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. Elizabeth Ko are UCLA Health internists.

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