Stress at Work and Blood Pressure

Q. Recently, my employer offered free blood pressure tests. My blood pressure was 150 over 90. Normally my blood pressure is 120 over 70. I was told that I suffer from “white collar” hypertension, or said differently, when I am at work my blood pressure is elevated. I guess I get uptight when I am at work. Do I need to take medicine to lower my blood pressure during the day?

A. A Canadian study was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health in which researchers were looking for a link between job strain and elevated blood pressure in both men and women in white collar occupations. The results showed that cumulative stress in the workplace does increase hypertension in men, but not in women.

Before you begin medication, you should consider preventive treatment. Stress management techniques like exercise, relaxation breathing, or yoga, can minimize the effects of job stress. Other risk factors should be controlled, including smoking, salt and/or caffeine, diabetes management, inactivity, and overall weight. Family history is also a risk factor, but the only one you cannot influence with lifestyle changes.

High blood pressure that is episodic does not need to be treated with medication. Sustained high blood pressure needs medical intervention. Sustained means it lasts for a few months in spite of any efforts to reduce risk factors.

Check your blood pressure periodically at work and at home for a month or two using a reliable monitor. Take the monitor to your doctor’s appointment to compare readings.

Hypertension of 150/90 on a sustained basis should be treated. Below 130/80 is acceptable.

John Cranwell, M.D.

Memorial Health Partners

2600 Taft Highway, Signal Mountain, TN 37377



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