New research indicates that people with high blood pressure have a more difficult time reading another person's emotions -- whether it be from facial expressions or from the emotional subtext of written communications.
This "emotional dampening" is essentially a lack of a response to both situations, whether positive or negative, researchers report in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine
Those who have difficulty understanding subtleties in conversation can become distrustful, have communication problems, and may develop poor job performance, explains lead author James McCubbin, professor of psychology at Clemson University. For example, an employee may assume his boss is joking, when that person is actually angry.
Additionally, people without emotional savvy may not reap the "restorative benefits" of typically positive experiences such as hobbies, vacations, and support from loved ones.
In the study, 106 African-American men and women were asked to evaluate emotional expressions from visual cues and written text. Blood pressure and cardiac measurements were taken during the test. Those with the higher-than-normal blood pressure readings were least able to recognize emotions.
Why this link exists is unclear, although researchers suspect high blood pressure may subtly change brain function.
Blood pressure medications may help restore a person's emotional savvy, McCubbin said.