A recent article on Very WellMind.com reported on a University of Michigan study which found that men who were more physiologically reactive to stress (as measured by high blood pressure) were 72% more likely to suffer a stroke.
A recent study of 6553 Japanese male and female workers examined job stress levels and found that men (though not women) in jobs that involved high demands and lower levels of personal control (in other words, more stressful jobs) were at greater stroke risk, even after controlling for variables like age, educational attainment, occupation, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and study area.
One study measured levels of adaptation to stress—how well participants managed stress, and the associated risk. They found that those who had difficulty managing stress appeared to be at an increased risk of stroke. “One interpretation,” they write of their results, “is that hypertensive men who chronically fail to find successful strategies in stressful situations are vulnerable to the damaging effects of stress and thereby at an increased risk of a future stroke.”
What we know can be summed up with this, from researchers from The Copenhagen City Heart Study, who asked people about their stress levels and analyzed their health outcomes: “Self-reported high-stress intensity and weekly stress were associated with a higher risk of fatal stroke compared with no stress. However, there were no significant trends, and the present data do not provide strong evidence that self-reported stress is an independent risk factor for stroke.”
However, while stress is linked, but not firmly established as an independent risk factor for stroke, it’s important to note that stress is linked with several firmly established risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.In addition to potentially raising stroke risk, stress is associated with poorer outcomes for those who have already had a stroke, as well as their families.
While more research needs to be done, there is enough evidence of a stress-and-stroke-risk relationship that I feel very comfortable recommend stress management strategies as one means of lowering risk.
Here are some stress management tips and resources for those concerned about lowering their stroke risk, as well as those who have already suffered a stroke, or care for stroke survivors.
Reversing your stress response through breathing exercises, meditation or other methods can help prevent the negative effects of chronic stress, especially if used as part of an overall stress management plan. Of course, a healthy lifestyle always helps to reduce stress as well as risk for major diseases and conditions. Regular exercise is crucial to this as is a good diet and minimal exposure to toxins.
Having a supportive social circle has also been linked with better outcomes for both prevention of and post-stroke survivors.