Stress is a symptom of high blood pressure rather than the cause, study finds

Diastolic blood pressure has ‘significant casual effects’ on neuroticism, experts say

Saman Javed
Tuesday 22 November 2022 09:33 GMT
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High blood pressure negatively impacts how people deal with stress, according to a new study.

The research departs from previous findings that stress is a symptom of high blood pressure.

The study, published in the journal of General Psychiatry, established a link between diastolic blood pressure—the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats—and neuroticism.

People with higher scores of neuroticism struggle to deal with the negative effects of stress, such as irritability and emotional instability.

Experts at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China analysed eight studies which measured the blood pressure readings of 736,650 people in Europe.

They compared these readings with participants’ levels of anxiety, depression, neuroticism and general wellbeing.

While medical research has long established a relationship between high blood pressure and anxiety and stress, it has been unclear if the negative emotions or physical effects come first.

The researchers applied a technique called Mendelian randomisation, which uses genetic variation to determine particular risks.

They found that diastolic blood pressure had “significant casual effects” on neuroticism. They did not find any effects on levels of anxiety or depression.

Explaining the study’s results, authors said blood pressure links the brain and the heart. Therefore, blood pressure may promote the development of certain personality traits.

However, they noted that the findings may not be applicable beyond people of European ancestory.

“Individuals with neuroticism can be sensitive to the criticism of others, are often self-critical, and easily develop anxiety, anger, worry, hostility, self-consciousness, and depression,” the authors said.

“Neuroticism is viewed as a key causative factor for anxiety and mood disorders. Individuals with neuroticism more frequently experience high mental stress, which can lead to elevated [blood pressure] and cardiovascular diseases.

“Appropriate surveillance and control of blood pressure can be beneficial for the reduction of neuroticism, neuroticism-inducing mood disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.”

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