Scientists Just Found a Surprising Link Between Your Blood Pressure and Your Mood

Out of sorts? Your blood pressure could be to blame.

Your blood pressure performs an essential function in your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your various organs and tissues by pushing blood through your circulatory system. However, it's precisely because blood pressure is such a far-reaching function that having high blood pressure—or hypertension—is so dangerous. People with hypertension can develop a range of serious complications, including damage to the heart, arteries, kidneys, brain, eyes, and more, the Mayo Clinic explains.

Though much is known about the physical consequences of hypertension, experts have only recently begun to explore the mental health effects associated the condition. Read on to find out about a new study that suggests hypertension could be impacting your state of mind, and how to keep both your blood pressure and your mood on an even keel.

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You may develop high blood pressure for a number of reasons.

doctor takes patient's blood pressure
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Hypertension is surprisingly common, affecting two out of three Americans. Perhaps even more shocking, a comprehensive body of research known as The Framingham Heart Study found that one's lifetime risk of developing hypertension is roughly 90 percent.

High blood pressure occurs for a wide range of reasons—many of which have to do with your everyday lifestyle and health habits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that you may be at heightened risk for hypertension if you are overweight or obese, eat an unhealthy diet, get inadequate exercise, smoke, or drink more than the recommended daily limit of alcohol. Having a family history of hypertension, or certain underlying conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease, can also increase your odds of developing high blood pressure.

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A new study says your blood pressure may affect your mood.

Man experiencing anxiety and depression wife helping him

When you check your blood pressure, your reading is presented as two numbers—one over the other. "The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats," the CDC explains.

According to a new study published in the BMJ journal General Psychiatry, your diastolic blood pressure may impact not only your physical health, but also your mental health. That's because after probing the relationship between blood pressure and various psychological states—neuroticism, anxiety, depression, and subjective well-being—the study found a causal relationship between diastolic blood pressure and high levels of neuroticism.

"Neuroticism is a personality trait characterized as being prone to experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, distress, dissatisfaction, depression, anger and guilt," the researchers explained. They added that those with high levels of neuroticism "can be sensitive to the criticism of others, are often self-critical, and easily develop anxiety, anger, worry, hostility, self-consciousness, and depression."

Managing your blood pressure may help reduce mood disorders, researchers say.

Senior woman running

If you're struggling with neuroticism or related mood disorders, the researchers suggest managing your blood pressure as part of your broader treatment plan. That's because this particular personality trait "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 BP and cardiovascular diseases. Thus, appropriate management of BP may reduce neuroticism, neuroticism-inducing mood disorders and cardiovascular diseases," they concluded in the study.

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Here's how to maintain a healthy blood pressure going forward.

man preparing to take medication after blood pressure measuring
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The research team acknowledged several limitations of the study, and note that their work is only the beginning. More research is needed to fully understand the causal relationship between diastolic blood pressure and mental states, they say.

However, since there's no shortage of health benefits associated with managing your blood pressure, experts agree that everyone should strive to keep their levels under 120/80 mm Hg. If you notice that your numbers are high, you may be able to bring them down with the help of daily monitoring, lifestyle changes, and in some cases medication. Speak with your doctor to learn more about maintaining a healthy blood pressure for the sake of your physical and mental health.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more