Stroke: A Possible Danger of Chronic Stress

Stress and negative emotions linked to increased stroke risk

(RxWiki News) A bit of stress here and there in our lives can give us a motivational boost. But when that stress is constant, it can have a serious impact on our health and may even lead to some life-threatening situations.

Researchers recently found that individuals who reported high levels of stress, depressive symptoms and hostility were substantially more likely to have a stroke.

The authors of this study noted that high levels of anger did not increase stroke risk.

"If you often feel stressed or depressed, talk to a mental health professional about coping strategies."

Susan Everson-Rose, PhD, MPH, of the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, led this study.

According to Dr. Everson-Rose and colleagues, previous research has linked negative emotions and stress to heart disease. However, less is known about the role of stress, depression and anger, specifically, on stroke risk.

Strokes occur when the brain does not receive enough blood. Transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs, are strokes caused by a blockage that prevents blood from reaching the brain.

This study used data from 6,749 adults between the ages of 45 and 84 to examine the link between negative emotions and strokes.

Each of the participants had no heart disease at the beginning of the study. The participants filled out a questionnaire to assess their stress levels, depressive symptoms, anger and hostility.

The researchers followed up with the participants for an average of 8.5 years. During that time period, 147 strokes and 48 TIAs were reported among the patients.

The researchers discovered that the participants were more likely to have a stroke or TIA if they reported depressive symptoms, chronic stress and frequent feelings of hostility.

Anger, however, was not tied to more strokes.

Compared to the participants who scored the lowest in the questionnaires, the participants who experienced the most depressive symptoms were 86 percent more likely to experience a stroke or TIA.

The participants who experienced the most severe chronic stress were 59 percent more likely to have a stroke or TIA than those without much stress.

The participants who scored in the highest group for hostility were more than twice as likely to have a stroke or TIA than those in the lowest-scoring group.

The researchers concluded that excess stroke and TIA risk was tied to depressive symptoms, chronic stress and hostility.

They called for more research to be done to see how stroke risk due to stress and negative emotions can be reduced.

This study was published in Stroke on July 10.

The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Center for Research Resources.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 9, 2014