Your Emotions and Your Risk of Stroke: The Strange Connection

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Your Emotions and Your Risk of Stroke The Strange ConnectionIn the U.S. today, stroke is one of the leading causes of death, morbidity, and the decline in an individual’s quality of life.

Strokes are caused when the arteries that carry blood into the inside of the brain are blocked. Strokes are similar in their mechanism to heart attacks, which can be caused by an interruption of blood flow to the heart muscle. A stroke can partially or permanently damage brain tissue, which can lead to disability.

According to published research, the same risk factors that are closely linked to the development of heart disease and diabetes are also behind the incidence of strokes on the U.S.

There are a number of factors that you can control that can help lower your risk of developing a stroke. Most of these risk factors relate directly to your lifestyle, diet, and health practices.

Some new research has also suggested that it is not just your diet and the amount of exercise you get that determines your risk; your emotional outlook may also play an important role in your risk of stroke.

This comes as no surprise to me as previous reports have indicated that stress, depression, and social isolation are also linked to an increased risk of heart attack and poor glycemic control in patients who suffer from diabetes.

According to this new research published in the journal Stroke, increased levels of stress and depression can increase the risk of experiencing a stroke in middle-aged and older people.

Approximately 6,700 adults living in six American cities completed a questionnaire regarding their experience of the intensity and frequency of stress, depression, anger, or hostility over a two-year period. All of the participants were otherwise healthy at the beginning of the trial and were followed for an average of 8.5 to 11 years, at which time the number of strokes occurring in this group was calculated.

The results of this research indicated that there was a direct relationship between the degree of stress experienced by people and their risk of having a stroke.

From a statistical perspective: The people in the study who had the highest levels of depression were 86% more likely to have a stroke compared to those with the lowest levels of depression. In addition, those who had the highest levels of chronic stress were 59% more likely to have a stroke relative to those people who had the lowest stress scores. Those who had the highest scores of hostility had a stroke risk, which was more than twice that of those participants who had the lowest scores for hostility.

According to the study’s lead author, Susan Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H., “There’s such a focus on traditional risk factors—cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking and so forth—and those are all very important, but studies like this one show that psychological characteristics are equally important.”

I couldn’t agree more in this case.

Did you ever wonder why so many people in this country are dying prematurely of heart disease and strokes each year? They consume a poor diet, exercise infrequently (if at all), are under chronic stress, suffer in silence from recurrent depression, and carry with them a certain sense of hostility regarding their frustration with life, people, and their inherent life circumstances.

The takeaway here?

We need to look beyond the physical when we deal with patients and manage their needs in a much more holistic manner.

Source for Today’s Article:
“High stress, hostility, depression linked with increased stroke risk,” (e) Science News web site, July 11, 2014;