CAN ANXIETY CAUSE A STROKE?

CAN ANXIETY CAUSE A STROKE?
JuanitaHFNE

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

In stressful situations, we all have suffered from a little anxiety, perhaps sweaty palms, or an accelerated heart rate. But what happens when the levels of anxiety rise? Could they be a real danger for our health? Sadly, the answer is yes. High levels of anxiety are related to several negative effects, strokes and heart attacks included.

Anxiety disorders are linked to several physical reactions. Testimonies from people who suffer from anxiety have shown how worried they are about suffering from a stroke or a heart attack. According to a study published by the American Heart Association journal Stroke in 2013, the risk of having a stroke increases when anxiety levels are high.

Resultado de imagen para stroke

WHAT IS ANXIETY

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” As stated here, anxiety is not, at first, identified as a disease. When physical reactions are developed, high levels of anxiety are in stake and it becomes a disorder.

WHAT IS ANXIETY DISORDER?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety disorder as “having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” These recurring thoughts end up causing troubles in the daily life of the sufferers. Headaches, chest pain or panic attacks are some of the most common physical reactions.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-V), there are several main types of anxiety disorder.

  • The general anxiety disorder, the most common disorder, in which people feel distress, anxiety and worries about nonspecific parts, objects, events or situations of their lives. People who suffer from this disorder are normally not able to identify the source of their anxiety.
  • The panic disorder creates situations in which the sufferer feels anxiety or fear when there is no actual threat. Panic attacks are very common in this disorder.
  • Specific phobias which are irrational fears or avoidance of an object, situation or event.
  • Agoraphobia which is the extreme fear of being in a situation in which it might be difficult or impossible to scape. People who suffer from agoraphobia tend to stay at home and not use public transportation or elevators.
  • The social anxiety disorder includes a set of feelings such as stage fright, intimacy fear or anxiety around humiliation and rejections.
people performing on stage

HOW CAN ANXIETY LEAD TO A STROKE?

These anxiety problems are not something to be overlooked. Studies have shown how high levels of anxiety can increase the risk of having a future stroke in 33 percent. This information came from the very first study focused directly on anxiety apart from depression or other disorders, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The lead researcher, Maya Lambiase, and her team found this distressing information after having examined over 6000 participants from 22 years of records. The participants, aged 25 to 74, agreed to have medical tests done, questionnaires, in-person interviews and agreed to be followed up for decades. During the time of this study, 419 (about 7%) participants suffered strokes. 

Given the fact that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 20 percent of American adults and 25% of teens and children suffer from anxiety disorders, and that strokes are one of the main causes of death and long term disability in the US, these results are not to be taken slightly.

According to Maya Lambiase, “Everyone has some anxiety now and then. But when it’s elevated and/or chronic, it may have an effect on your vasculature years down the road,”. 

The results and conclusions of the study showed also that anxiety is something very common in the general population and that its assessment and treatment could pave the way to preventive measure in order to improve cardiovascular health. 

Dr. Scott Krakower, child and adolescent psychiatrist and general adult psychiatrist, commented on this study and stated that a little anxiety in life is necessary, but there is a point in which this anxiety can affect health and it should be controlled. 

He also urged for more studies to be done either to support or refute Lambiase’s results, since this study is the only one that has been conducted so far.

Dr. Shazam Hussain, head of the Cleveland Clinic’s Stroke Center, stated that the study provided valuable insight to factors that could lead to a stroke. It was previously known that anxiety is linked to heart diseases but linking it directly to strokes was a groundbreaking advance.

According to experts, there is a biochemical response that comes from chronic anxiety. This response increases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland and the adrenal glands, which are in charge of controlling the stress, are activated by this increase.

If these reactions extend for a long period of time or happen with intensity, the vascular system, including the vessels in the brain, could get affected and increment the possibility of suffering a stroke. 

Lambiase stated that it was not clear how reducing anxiety and stress could lower the risk of a stroke. Hussein, however, saw these results as a call for action. People should be more aware of the anxiety and stress levels in their lives. Reducing them would be very important for our health.

CAN ANXIETY BE TREATED?

Well, yes, it can! Psychotherapy, behavioral therapy and medication are some of the treatments for anxiety. There are some factors that could affect the treatment of anxiety, such as alcoholism or dependence of any other substance, and depression. These can have a very strong effect in mental health.

Some other options are also available. You could naturally get rid of anxiety by staying active, for example. Good hobbies, like exercising, could set you on the path to long term anxiety relief! 

Smoking and drinking alcohol are between the most common factors, or stressors, that could lead to anxiety. Do not rely on any substances to ease your anxiety. This might come back any time and with the absence of the substances, its effects could be worse or create dependence.

Relaxation technics such as meditation, long bathes or slow breathing, resting in the dark and yoga are also very handy when it comes to naturally getting rid of anxiety. You should take things easy and try not to get too affected when things are not going your way. Little changes in your life will be very effective to reduce anxiety in your life!

Support networks could also be of great help when treating anxiety. It is very important to talk and communicate your thoughts and feelings, even you’re your friends or family.

person holding piece of paper with phone a friend written text

WHAT IF ANXIETY IS NOT TREATED?

Untreated anxiety does not stop its growth and extend into the most important areas of your life and your health. Chest pains, headaches, high blood pressure are just the beginning of future health problems. 

person holding amber glass bottles

With panic attacks that feel as heart attacks or strokes, phobias which keep you from doing things you like and anxiety causing mayhem all over your life, this is a problem that cannot go on without taking care of it and should be consulted with professionals.

Anxiety is a problem that affects all people and more information should be given about it. Controlling it will be paramount for having a healthy life, avoiding high probabilities of suffering strokes or heart attacks. Reducing anxiety will help you live a plentiful and happier life. 

Do not let anxiety take control over your life! Take decision that benefit your life and future.  Give anxiety the importance it requires in your life and do not take it as a slight issue, because treating it effectively will make a big difference!

If you have any comments or questions, feel yourself comfortable to put them down in our comment section! Let’s share information in this highly important topic!

There are several tools and books on Amazon.com that could come in handy when dealing with anxiety. Here you have some of them!

This book is a very funny and rapid way of solving the issues your anxiety might cause!

  • Conquer Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Find Peace from Worry, Panic, Fear, and Phobias

When talking about teens, this workbook is very useful to help them solve anxiety problems without much hassle or complications.

  • Fidget Spinners

Studies have proved how useful these little toys can be when dealing with anxiety! The repetitive act of spinning the toy can be soothing.

This great book has translated clinic techniques into tricks and plays for the anxiety to disappear in your daily life! 

  • Hemp Gummies

If you happen to be into this kind of natural remedies, these gummies are for you! They help reduce stress and anxiety!

FAQ: Can anxiety cause a stroke?

Can emotional stress cause a stroke?

The likelihood to suffer from a cerebrovascular disease are higher when there is psychological stress. Chronic stress, as well as depressive symptoms increment the possibility of older people undergoing a stroke or transient ischemic attack. Researchers have found that hostility is also a risk factor for strokes or any other cerebrovascular disease.

Can panic attack cause a stroke?

A panic attack could triplicate the chances of future heart attack or stroke in the following five years, according to study. However, since the risk of strokes or heart problems remains to be rather low. 3 or 4 percent of risk would most likely be the outcome after a panic attack.

Can anxiety mimic stroke symptoms?

Anxiety and panic attacks could mimic real symptoms of a stroke or a heart attack. People tend to believe that, due to the similarity of the sensations. Feeling dizzy, not being able to breathe, rapid heartbeat, dry mount, nausea, stiff muscles and stomach cramps are some of the symptoms people may experience during a panic attack.

Can chronic anxiety kill you?

Panic attacks are not something to ignore. They can feel as if they were heart attacks or other serious condition due to the similarity of the symptoms. Although these panic attacks will not cause you to die, it is necessary for you to contact your physician if you experience these symptoms regularly in order to run tests and receive further help. 

Can arguing cause a stroke?

There is little information about the emotional effects that could lead to a stroke. Even though there are many known risk factors such as heart diseases, smoking, high blood pressure and many others, emotional and mental stress have also been tied to strokes and heart attacks.


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