A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has shown an association between anxiety and a higher long-term risk for stroke, according to a news release by the American Heart Association.
The team, led by Maya Lambiasse, PhD studied medical records of 6,000 patients aged 25-74 over the course of 22 years; participants were enrolled in the first US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey during the early 1970s.
Initially, the participants submitted to blood tests, interviews and psychological surveys used to determine their depression and anxiety levels. As part of the study follow-up, the team gathered hospital and nursing home records and death certificates, if applicable.
Patients who were more highly anxious, the top third of the group, had a 33% higher stroke risk than those with lower levels of anxiety.
However, the researchers emphasize that while the study does show a link between anxiety and stroke risk, it does not prove that anxiety is causally linked to stroke risk.
Lead author Lambiasse asserts that some of the reasons for this link could actually be more directly associated with smoking behavior, as anxious people are more likely to smoke, which raises blood pressure and cardiovascular risk in general.
Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death and a major cause of disability in the United States. According to the US National Library of Medicine, the following symptoms may signal the onset of a stroke:
- sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body only
- sudden confusion or trouble speaking
- sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance
- sudden severe headache with no known cause
Notice a pattern? All of these symptoms occur suddenly, which demonstrates that time is of the essence if you are a loved one experience them. Seek medical attention immediately, as this increases rehabilitation success.