A recent study whose findings have been published in the journal of the American Heart Association has revealed that psychological factors have a part to play in a person’s likelihood of having a stroke for those in their mid-forties and over.
Previously other lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise have been connected with risk of stroke, but this is the first time that psychological factors have been shown to be a significant cause.
A stroke is when a clot or burst blood vessel interrupts the supply of blood to the brain, and depending on the severity it can lead to extreme stiffness and loss of mobility. Stroke survivors can find themselves in need of assistance with mobility such as a stairlift because they are no longer able to manage stairs after a stroke.
The research was conducted on over 6,700 people aged between 45 and 84, and spanned up to eleven years. Care was taken to ensure that participants in the study came from a wide cross-section of the population, with different ethnicities represented. The emotions and attitudes covered were hostility, anger, depression and chronic stress.
Depression increases risk of stroke
According to the study, the key attitudes associated with stroke were symptoms of depression, stress and hostility towards other people. Surprisingly anger did not have a significant correlation with increased risk of stroke.
The findings showed that people displaying symptoms of depression had an increased risk of 86% of having a stroke. Those with chronic stress were 59% more likely to have a stroke. Those people with a high score in terms of hostility had more than double the chance of a stroke.
Stress was measured relating to five key areas: money, work, relationships, participant’s health, and the health of loved ones. Hostility was defined as having a negative view of the world, and was measured through the participant’s level of cynicism regarding the motives of people with whom they interacted.
A questionnaire was used to assess symptoms of depression. For assessing anger, participants recorded on a scale the frequency and extremity of feeling the emotion.
The study did not explore whether some people had developed ways of managing depression, stress, hostility or anger, and whether this helped to mitigate the risk of suffering a stroke.
It remains to be seen how the medical profession will respond to the findings of this study, and whether further studies will be commissioned in this area. In the meantime, these findings should not be ignored, and everyone could consider making some lifestyle changes in order to reduce their own risk of suffering a stroke.