How a Psychologist Can Help You Manage High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure at which blood is pumped around our body by the heart. High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is considered to be a very serious health issue. It is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and medical crises such as heart attacks and strokes. It may even contribute to hardening of the arteries. It is estimated that 20% of Americans have some form of high blood pressure. It is further estimate that only half of these cases have been recognized, and less than half of those are treated.

Most cases of high blood pressure are called “essential hypertension,” meaning there’s no obvious medical cause or the hypertension. Emotional factors are known to play a role in most cases of essential hypertension. Blood pressure may rise dramatically during very stressful situations, but for it to remain high the stressful events must be continuing and unrelenting. Often a person with hypertension will be living or working in a situation where he is frequently very tense or angry, but does not have the option of leaving the situation or expressing his true feelings. After blood pressure remains high for some time it is thought that special receptors in the body that monitor blood pressure become adjusted to the high levels; the body may then lose its ability to lower the blood pressure to a safer level. Fortunately, it appears that the body can return to maintaining a lower blood pressure with proper treatment.

The most effective overall treatment for high blood pressure involves working with a mental health counselor on the emotional and stressful issues in your life; learning methods of stress management and biofeedback; and working with a physician to monitor blood pressure levels and oversee medication. Blood pressure medication can be a life-saving part of treatment for high blood pressure, but some may have unpleasant side effects, including tiredness and sexual difficulties. If blood pressure can be lowered under medical supervision with the assistance of counseling methods, then the person might require less medication. However, it is important to state that blood pressure must be controlled with medication until an alternative is found to lessen the need for the medication. Your family doctor would likely welcome the use of counseling to assist his or her efforts to help you control your blood pressure.

If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, WA area and would like counseling, contact my office to set up an appointment.

For more information, visit Managing High Blood Pressure and Managing Stress

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