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Can Stress Cause Plaque Buildup In Your Arteries?

Stress and PAD

Whether you’re trying to meet a deadline at work, managing your finances, losing a loved one, losing your cell phone, or fighting with a family member, stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Throughout your life, stress manifests into new challenges that you are forced to face every single day. When you’re little, stress may be as small as losing your favorite toy. As a teenager, it may be failing a test and as an adult, it may be breaking up with a partner. When you get older, stress can feel like a neverending weight on your shoulders, affecting your overall health.

However, it’s important to know that there is not a “quick fix” for making your stress magically disappear. Managing your stress needs to be a daily priority whatever life throws at you. This is because stress can affect everything from your mental to your physical health.

What Is the Relationship Between Stress and Hypertension?

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure levels. When you are stressed, your body produces a surge of hormones that flood your system. These hormones temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.

Even though stress may not be a major contributor to long-term narrowed blood vessels, it can be detrimental to your mind and body.

Man getting blood pressure tested by doctor

Differences Between Chronic and Acute Stress

It’s important to understand the difference between acute and chronic stress because one is less damaging to your health, while the other can even be life-threatening. Acute stress is known as short-term stressors like being late to work, cleaning before a relative visits, or missing a deadline. These feelings usually go away once the issue has been solved and occur multiple times in a day.

However, chronic stress is caused by long-term stressors that can have lasting damages on your organs and mental state. Chronic stress may include losing your job, getting divorced, or struggling with an ongoing illness. These stressors can prevent you from living a healthy life.

PAD, Stress, and Hypertension Risk Factors

You are at higher risk for developing PAD, stress, and hypertension if you are:

  • Overweight
  • Not actively managing diabetes
  • Over the age of 50
  • Eating a poor diet
  • Not exercising regularly

These factors indirectly affect your overall body especially your arterial health. Stress symptoms can vary from person to person. However, they can be effectively managed by adjusting your lifestyle factors and reducing chronic stress levels.

Can Stress Cause Leg Pain?

Woman clutching her calf in pain

In a sense yes. Stress can cause hypertension that can cause poor health decisions like avoiding exercise, smoking regularly, or eating the wrong foods. Increasing blood pressure or cholesterol can cause plaque buildup within your arteries which could potentially cause leg pain or cramps.

Does Stress Cause Artery Blockages?

Even though chronic stress may not directly cause arterial blockages, unhealthy ways of dealing with stress such as overeating, avoiding the doctor, or smoking can raise your risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). When you avoid managing your stress-induced hypertension, you may resort to unhealthy habits that can cause narrowed blood vessels or plaque buildup within the arteries.

Smoking is one of the main contributors to PAD by constricting blood vessels which can lead to decreased oxygen and nutrients to your lower extremities. Overeating caused by stress may lead to obesity. Obesity also contributes to PAD, by increasing plaque buildup as well as putting excess weight on your legs. Stress, smoking, and obesity can all lead to a more sedentary life, which is another cause of vascular diseases like PAD.

Although stress may not directly cause PAD, it’s important to manage in order to avoid correlating health conditions.

Why You Should Treat Stress and Hypertension Early

Not only does long-term stress and hypertension cause unhealthy habits, but it can lead to chronic illnesses which could contribute to even more stress and high blood pressure. Leading a healthy, active life can help you avoid serious, life-threatening conditions like PAD. Visiting the doctor regularly to discuss the causes of your stress and hypertension as well as how to manage them both daily, is an important factor for avoiding further vascular conditions.

As you age, being able to have tools to manage your stress and blood pressure at an early stage, can help you avoid various medical conditions such as stroke or heart attack later on in life. If you are at an increased risk for PAD, talking to a vascular specialist can help you understand how to recognize the symptoms and signs of arterial plaque buildup.

Lifestyle Changes for Stress and Leg Cramps

Reducing stress-induced hypertension doesn’t have to be difficult. Stress symptoms in men can range from headaches to chronic fatigue. That’s why it’s important to find a system that works with your daily life. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your stress and hypertension:

  • Understand what your chronic stressors are.
  • Differentiate between acute and chronic stress.
  • Talk to a therapist, close friend, or specialist.
  • Find healthy ways to cope through exercise, an improved diet, meditation, breathing exercises, etc.
  • Take medications to lower your blood pressure.

PAD and Stress-Induced Hypertension

Even though stress may not directly cause peripheral artery disease, stress and hypertension need to be managed to avoid elevated levels of high blood pressure. If you want to consult a vascular specialist on lifestyle changes or medicinal management for your vascular condition, give USA Vascular Centers a call at 888-773-2193 or schedule an initial consultation online.

Our vascular specialists can run an ABI (ankle-brachial index) test to see how serious your vascular issues are and recommend a comprehensive treatment solution. Don’t wait for your vascular condition to worsen. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, it’s important to understand your risk of vascular diseases like peripheral artery disease.

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