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Feeling ‘burnt out’ can increase your blood pressure, warns expert – how to spot it

When we discuss high blood pressure, it means we’re talking about the pressure at which the blood flows through the arteries, veins, and blood vessels inside our body. If this is too high it can increase our risk of heart disease and a premature death. Express.co.uk has been speaking to Martin Preston of Delamere about one potential cause for high blood pressure: burnout.

Burnout is described by charity Mental Health UK as a “state of physical and emotional exhaustion”.

It says: “It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.”

It is this stress that Mr Preston says can increase your blood pressure: “Long-term stress can increase your blood pressure.

“When we are stressed or burnt out, our bodies release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, these can raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to spike.”

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In recent years, studies have shown how high levels of cortisol released over a long period of time can have a negative impact on the body.

Stress is at its heart, a form of inflammation. While some inflammation is good – there is such a thing as positive stress – too much can put undue stress on the body.

With regard to reducing stress, there are any number of ways this can be done.

Mr Preston recommended: “Exercise, healthy eating, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, starting yoga, meditation or deep breathing, and listening to music can all help to reduce your stress levels and keep your blood pressure in check.”

However, burnout is one cause of high blood pressure that can sometimes be difficult to spot and easy to miss.

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What are the main symptoms of burnout?

Mental Health UK list the main symptoms as:
• Feeling tired or drained most of the time
• Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
• Feeling detached/alone in the world
• Having a cynical/negative outlook
• Self-doubt
• Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
• Feeling overwhelmed.

It adds: “When asked to identify the symptoms of burnout, 85 percent of UK adults correctly identified symptoms of burnout, while 68 percent mistakenly identified symptoms of anxiety.”

How is it treated?

Burnout is a mental health condition and so it is treated through both physical and psychological means including trying to relax through exercise and talking therapy is needed.

Reducing burnout will also in turn help to reduce high blood pressure, which can also be alleviated in a number of ways.

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One of the best ways to do this is through the diet. Most health experts recommend a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, one low in salt and fat.

Although a balanced array of food is the best option, some diets are considered more effective than others.

For example, the vegan diet is considered to be particularly effective, at least according to a study published by the University of Warwick in 2020.

The team behind the study found that plant-based diets were found to lower blood pressure even if consumed with small amounts of dairy and meat products.

Published in the Journal of Hypertension, they said that increasing levels of plant-based food in your diet would have health benefits and reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other forms of cardiovascular disease alongside blood pressure.

Lead author on the study, Joshua Gibbs said: “We reviewed 41 studies involving 8,416 participants, in which the effects of seven different plant-based diets (including DASH, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Vegan, Nordic, high fibre and high fruit and vegetables) on blood pressure were studied in controlled clinical trials.

“A systematic review and meta-analysis of these studies showed that most of these diets lowered blood pressure. The DASH diet had the largest effect reducing blood pressure by 5.53/3.79 mmHg compared to a control diet, and by 8.74/6.05 mmHg when compared to a ‘usual’ diet.”

He added: “This is a significant finding as it highlights that complete eradication of animal products is not necessary to produce reductions and improvements in blood pressure. Essentially, any shift towards a plant-based diet is a good one.”

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