Anxiety Increases Risk of Stroke

strokeAccording to a new study published in the journal Stroke, the more anxiety a person has, the greater their risk for stroke is.[1] Results of the study revealed that participants who had the greatest amount of anxiety were at a 33 percent higher risk for stroke, when compared to those with lower anxiety levels.1

Led by Maya Lambiase, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, researchers reviewed the data of more than 6,000 people, aged 25 to 74, who participated in the first U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which begun in the early 1970s.1 The participants underwent interviews, medical tests, and filled out questionnaires to assess their levels of anxiety and depression.1 The researchers used hospital or nursing home records and death certificates to keep track of strokes that occurred over the past 22 years.1

Even after taking into account other factors, even a modest increase in anxiety was associated with greater odds of suffering a stroke.1

It is not completely understood how anxiety increases the risk of stroke, but there is much speculation.1 Lambiase said, “Everyone has some anxiety now and then, but when it’s elevated and chronic, it may have an effect on your vasculature [blood vessel system] years down the road.”1

Also, those who suffer high anxiety are more likely to smoke and be physically inactive, which plays a role in the risk of stroke.1 Also, higher stress hormone levels, heart rate, or blood pressure could also increase the chances.1 There are many factors that could come into play here.1

Although this study did find an association between higher anxiety levels and an increased risk of stroke, it was unable to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.1

Assistant Unit Chief of Psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital, Dr. Scott Krakower said, “We know that a little bit of anxiety is a good thing, but when anxiety becomes excessive, it takes a tole on the body and needs to be treated.”1 While there have been other studies that link stroke with depression, the effects of anxiety have not been studied in depth.1 Therefore, more studies are needed to confirm or discredit the association.1

Anxiety is a very common mental health problem, and many more people suffer from anxiety than from depression.1 Unfortunately, it is often overlooked.1

[1] Pedersen, T. (2013). Anxiety Tied to Stroke Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 23, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/21/anxiety-tied-to-stroke-risk/63609.html

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