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Study: Stress, Depression May Boost Stroke Risk

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(Credit: Thinkstock)

(Credit: Thinkstock)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, stress, hostility and depression may increase the risk of stroke.

The study found that depression raised the risk of a stroke or mini-stroke by 86 percent, HealthDay News reports.

The study also found that stress raised the risk of stroke or mini-stroke by 59 percent. Researchers found that hostility doubled the risk of stroke or mini-stroke.

A mini-stroke, or a transient ischemic attack, is caused by a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain.

Researchers noted that the study only found an association between the risk of stroke and negative emotions.  They did not set out to prove that negative emotions can cause a stroke.

“Chronic stress and negative emotions are important psychological factors that affect one’s health, and findings from this study link these factors to brain health in particular,” Susan Everson-Rose, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, and the study’s lead author, told HealthDay News.

The researchers analyzed data from about 7,000 adults, between 45 and 84 years of age, who took part in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires asking about chronic stress, depressive symptoms, anger, and hostility.

A follow-up was conducted after nearly 8.5 years with just under 3 percent of the original group had suffered either a stroke or a mini-stroke.  The study found that 147 participants had a stroke and 48 had a mini-stroke.

The researchers found that those who reported the highest levels of emotional problems were at the greatest risk of a stroke or a mini-stroke, compared to those with the lowest levels of stress, hostility, and depression.

Researchers took into account age, race, sex, health behaviors, and other known risk factors for stroke.

The researchers found that anger did not cause a significant increase in the risk of stroke.

The participants were not asked about their coping strategies; so the researchers did not know if how people coped with their emotions had an effect on their risk of stroke.

The researchers wanted people to pay attention to stress and emotions just as they would be concerned with smoking and high blood pressure when concerned about reducing their risk of stroke.

“Psychological factors have been long thought to play a role in heart disease and stroke,” Dr. Richard Libman, chief of vascular neurology at North Shore-LIU Health System in Manhasset, New York, told HealthDay News. “Chronic stress has been thought to be a risk factor for stroke. In other studies, acute stress has also been found to be a trigger for stroke, that is to say that strokes occur immediately after a stressful event more often than would be expected. This study reopens a neglected field in stroke research, that is the psychological aspects of our lives, which can have a profound impact on our health.”

It is important that people suffering stress and depression get professional help.

“People shouldn’t suffer in silence, they should seek help, wither it be talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two,” Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in New York City, told HealthDay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year – that’s 1 of every 19 deaths.

The findings were published in the journal Stroke.

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