Emotional Stress as a Risk for Hypertension in Sub-Saharan Africans: Are We Ignoring the Odds?

  • Leoné Malan
  • Nico T. Malan
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 956)


Globally most interventions focus on improving lifestyle habits and treatment regimens to combat hypertension as a non-communicable disease (NCD). However, despite these interventions and improved medical treatments, blood pressure (BP) values are still on the rise and poorly controlled in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Other factors contributing to hypertension prevalence, such as chronic emotional stress, might provide some insight for future health policy approaches.

Currently, Hypertension Society guidelines do not mention emotional stress as a probable cause for hypertension. Recently the 2014 World Global Health reports, suggested that African governments should consider using World Health Organization hypertension data as a proxy indicator for social well-being. However, the possibility that a stressful life and taxing environmental factors might disturb central neural control of BP regulation has largely been ignored in SSA.

Linking emotional stress to vascular dysregulation is therefore one way to investigate increased cardiometabolic challenges, neurotransmitter depletion and disturbed hemodynamics. Disruption of stress response pathways and subsequent changes in lifestyle habits as ways of coping with a stressful life, and as probable cause for hypertension prevalence in SSA, may be included in future preventive measures. We will provide an overview on emotional stress and central neural control of BP and will include also implications thereof for clinical practice in SSA cohorts.


Emotional Distress Emotional Stress Insular Cortex Hypertension Prevalence Sympathetic Hyperactivity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The SABPA study and findings on emotional stress and hypertension would not have been possible without the volunteering participant sample, the dedicated input of the Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART), GJ Motlhasedi (Fieldworker), C Lessing (Research Nurse), S Péter (MD) and in-kind analyses of the national and international expert team.

Conflicts of Interest

No conflicts of interest declared.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART)North-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa

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