What can I do about high blood pressure caused by stress?

Rozzer asked...

This high blood pressure thing is getting worse and worse. I had it under control for ten years with medication. No change. Then, starting six months ago, it started going up. Now it gets up into the 170's and 180's (systolic) and 90's and 100's (diastolic). My doc is on vacation, so his partner added clodipine to the three other meds I take. Then he boosted it to three times a day. I STILL have sky-high numbers: 175/88 at 1:00 P.M. today. I think it's stress, and I don't know what to do about it. We ARE under a lot of stress here. What can you do about it?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

My first thought when I read your letter is how are you checking your blood pressure (BP)? Are you getting it done by a professional, or are you using one of those little machines to do it for you? If you are, the machine may not be reading your BP correctly. I would try going to see your doctor's office (or whoever is covering for you doctor) for more accurate readings. If your BP was high at the doctor's office, I am sure that they would look at your medications to make sure you are taking them right. They would also examine you to try and find out what the issue is.

Regarding BP's going higher with stress, this can happen, of course. If you are stressed, you need to find ways to control your stress level. First, make sure you diet is as healthy as can be. You can drink, but you should have no more than one glass of wine or beer daily. If you smoke, stop. You also should try and get some physical exercise. Even a 30 minute walk each day would help. Another thought I have about you is are you sleeping well at night? Sometimes sleep apnea can cause the BP to dramatically increase. Good luck!