A Swedish study found a strong association between the two “S” – stress and stroke. And not just any stroke but certain types. The researchers looked at 566 ischemic stroke patients and compared them to 593 controls (e.g. non-stroke patients but similar in age, ethnicity, or gender). The patients were then asked to fill out a questionnaire about their stress levels, which on a 6-point scale ranged from never stressed to permanently stressed for a year or more. The researchers found that the study participants who reported prolonged stress are more likely to suffer from large vessel disease, small vessel disease and cryptogenic stroke. These are basically types of stroke that is caused by atherosclerosis or by blood clots which developed locally in the small blood vessels in the brain. However, there was no link found between stress levels and blood clots from the heart
According to study author Katarina Jood of the University of Gothenburg:
Strokes are also cerebral infarction or brain attack. There are two kinds of stroke. Ischemic stroke is the most common type and is caused by a blood clot in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. The less common hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel breaks thus causing bleeding into the brain. In the US, 780,000 people suffer from a stroke which may be a first attack or a recurrent. There are also so-called mini strokes or silent strokes that are seldom detected. Risk factors for stroke are smoking, high blood pressure, high BMI, high cholesterols and sedentary lifestyle.
In the current study, it is not clear why stress in only linked to certain types of stroke but not to others. Jood continues:
“We do not know why stress appears to play a greater role in particular types of stroke, but it is an important finding as it prompts further studies on what role stress plays in the development of stroke.”