Stress at Christmas affects your blood pressure

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Stress at Christmas affects your blood pressure


29% of people find shopping for presents and the crowds stressful during the festive season

Braving the shops has topped the list of what causes stress during the festive season, according to a poll undertaken by UK charity Blood Pressure UK.

The charity undertook the survey to demonstrate just what a stressful time of year Christmas can be, and to offer advice on how to keep your blood pressure down.  Blood Pressure UK is the UK’s leading blood pressure charity working to lower the nation’s blood pressure. The charity provides information and support for the 16 million people living with high blood pressure, and raises awareness of how to prevent the condition.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Blood Pressure UK said: “As this poll shows, Christmas can be quite stressful for a lot of people; everything from trying to find somewhere to park, braving the crowds during busy times and dealing with the queues, which can cause people to feel their blood pressure rising.  However, stress is just one of many lifestyle factors that put up our blood pressure, which causes two-thirds of all strokes and half of all heart attacks.”

High blood pressure affects more than one in four adults in the UK and there are several factors that can cause the condition, which include not only stress, but also eating too much salt, drinking too much and the lack of physical activity – all elements that happen around Christmas time when we start to relax and over indulge.

Katharine Jenner, Chief Executive of Blood Pressure UK said: “Many people are unaware they have high blood pressure; there are over five million people walking around like a ticking time bomb.  High blood pressure is symptomless, but the strokes and heart attacks it causes are not, which is why it is called ‘the silent killer’.

“Our advice is to stay away from the crowds if you find shopping stressful – try planning ahead or shopping online.  Whilst you’re at it, add a home blood pressure monitor to your Christmas shopping list, as measuring your blood pressure at home has been shown to be a great way to take control of your health [Ref NICE][1].”

The poll also identified panic of what gifts to buy (16%) and the cost of Christmas (12%) as triggers that can cause for stress. It’s not all doom and gloom though as nearly 25% of people said they felt no stress at all.

David Russell, 27 from Chelsea was diagnosed with high blood pressure in December 2012. He is currently on medication to manage it. He said: “As someone who is living with high blood pressure, I try to be mindful at Christmas as December is such a social month for going out and enjoying yourself; but with my medication it means I can pretty much live a normal life. Two years ago I was overweight and not feeling my best but now I am fit and feeling much better and looking forward to a happy and healthy festive season. High blood pressure is a symptomless disease and I would never had known I suffered from it had I not had problems with my kidneys; so I urge everyone out there to get to know their blood pressure numbers, as it could save their life.”

Top tips for keeping your blood pressure down at Christmas:

1. Eating less salt at Christmas: Salt puts up our blood pressure, even small reductions can make a big impact.  Many of the ingredients of a Christmas dinner: bacon, sausages, gravy and stuffing are already salty – so there should be no need to add any more when you’re cooking. Leave the salt shaker off the dining table – we often just add salt at the table out of habit, it’s time to break that habit!

2. Eating more fruit and veg at Christmas: Potassium in fruit and vegetables has a blood pressure lowering effect and luckily Christmas can be full of delicious options, like Clementine’s and of course, Brussel sprouts! Try and aim for at least 5 portions a day.

3. Avoiding stress when shopping: Planning ahead and making a shopping list can save you time and effort; you can even phone ahead and check stock levels, to avoid a wasted trip!  Try and avoid peak times if you can.

4. Not gaining weight: Increased body weight is linked to increased blood pressure, and no one wants to spend January on a diet, so try not to overdo it on the mince pies. 

5. The cost of Christmas:  Comparison websites are great for seeing who is doing the best deals, for both presents and food.  Remember to try and avoid hidden costs such as parking and postage; it all adds up.

6. Keeping warm: Lower temperatures are linked to higher blood pressure, it is very important that elderly friends and relatives keep warm: if you need help with energy bills, check out for advice.    

7. Not getting outside to do exercise: With all the cold weather (and great TV!) over Christmas, going for a run might not appeal, but a dancing lesson or a work out DVD could keep you moving and your blood pressure down. A lovely (bracing!) walk on Christmas day is a great way to get your circulation going, and to burn off a few of those extra calories!

Media contact:

To contact the Blood Pressure UK Press Office, call Sarah Wallace on 07870 210 025 or email

About Blood Pressure UK

Blood Pressure UK is the UK’s leading blood pressure charity working to lower the nation’s blood pressure. The charity provides information and support for people with high blood pressure and raises awareness to prevent the condition. For more information visit the charity’s website at If you have a question about your blood pressure, call 020 7882 6255. Blood Pressure UK is the operating name of the Blood Pressure Association, charity reg. 1058944.


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