(NEW YORK) — A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or ruptures, thwarting the flow of oxygenated blood. And while the mechanism is unclear, a new study suggests chronic stress might raise the risk of stroke.
The Spanish study of 450 people found strokes were more common among those with stressful lives and high-strung personalities, even after controlling for risk factors like smoking and diabetes.
“If you have stress, your risk for stroke is heightened,” said Dr. Ana Maria Garcia of the Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos in Madrid, co-author of the study published Thursday in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
The study was unable to conclude that stress causes strokes. It could be, rather, that strokes make people more prone to remembering stressful events. Nevertheless, it adds to mounting evidence that psychological stress can take a physical toll.
Previous studies have linked stress to the common cold, cancer and heart disease. And people with optimistic outlooks, who expect the best in uncertain times, are less likely to suffer strokes, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Stroke.
Garcia said she plans to tease out whether stress management training can reduce the risk of stroke.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN