Can Stress Cause a Stroke?

Dec 5, 2022 | Life After Stroke

In the current landscape of working professionals, stress is constantly felt in essence and the medical bills. Stress manifests itself in multiple forms – a racing brain prone to burnout, stiff muscles that cramp up and a heart prone to cardiac issues. There’s a fine line between a push that motivates you to do better at your job and a threat that causes you to feel sick and saps you of the same motivation. The bad actors of stress are causing a massive uptick in strokes and heart attacks over the last decade. Let’s understand the risks of constant pressure and how it can severely affect your well-being.

The Relationship Between Stress and Stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow is obstructed wholly or partially due to a clot, clogged blood vessel, or internal bleeding in the brain. The bleeding causes a temporary lack of oxygen to the brain, causing your brain to bear the brunt of making things work in a suboptimal situation. The constant state of stress may cause stroke through a tense state of blood flow in your brain; this erodes the arteries, causing inflammation. The inflammation can narrow or stiffen the blood vessels. Resorting to short-term stress alleviators like smoking, alcohol, or even drugs worsens the condition as they compound the stroke risk further.

Thus, the answer to the question, “Do stress cause strokes?” is yes!

Can Emotional Stress Cause Stroke?

Stroke is the second biggest cause of death and the leading cause of disability worldwide. Emotions and emotional health are significant contributors to an individual’s stress levels. Deep levels of sorrow, outbursts of anger and hostility can contribute to cardiovascular disease and increase the risks of a brain stroke. Emotional events like a family member’s death can also affect an individual’s physical health. While physical injuries and wounds are visible and identifiable, the same cannot be said for emotional ones. The brain copes very similarly to emotional pain as it would with physical pain.

A heart condition called takotsubo cardiomyopathy is connected to physical damage caused to the heart due to emotional events. Physical symptoms and signs of illnesses can be treated, whereas emotional injuries require the patient to seek help. Studies have established an association between acute and chronic emotional stresses and the dangers of a cardiovascular stroke. A combination of depressive symptoms, perceived and constant anxiety and dissatisfaction are being studied and correlated with stroke risk and increased chance of developing chronic disorders.

Does Stress Cause Strokes?

Stress pushes your heart and brain to work harder than possible. Increased blood sugar, hypertension, and cholesterol accumulation in blood vessels result from neglected stress. When stressed, it can be hard to lead a healthy lifestyle as the thing causing the stress, either job or a loss of an individual, can take over their life. This can also spiral out of control as stressed individuals indulge in unhealthy habits like a habit of unhealthy junk food. These issues don’t solve the underlying cause and add to the chronic side effects caused by stress. A serious health issue- like a heart attack or a severe illness- can further make things worse as stress can slow down the healing process and create health issues that weren’t there before.

What Type of Stroke is Caused by Stress?

The connection is not direct and more of a negligence snowballing out of control. When you address stress as you should, you lower the risks you’re developing for a tragic and chronic risk of a stroke. There are two subcategories of strokes that can be connected to stress[1]:

Hemorrhagic Stroke

This stroke is caused when there’s bleeding in the brain. When the vessel breaks, the blood leaks into the brain tissue and hampers the passage of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. A corroded blood vessel can cause an aneurysm- swelling of the vessel wall. This vessel wall can become weak by chronic hypertension and burst due to blood pressure.

Ischemic Stroke

Blocked arteries are a significant contributor to this type of stroke. Arteries can clog for various reasons, including cholesterol buildup and constricted blood vessels. Stress can increase the probability of a stroke for a person with multiple health issues. Genetics can also contribute to an individual’s risk of developing a life-threatening condition as stress increases.

Does Stress Cause a Stroke?

A human body can go through vast amounts of stress but not let it show outside and hide it away until you get it tested. A sustained amount of unmanageable stress can contribute to high levels of cortisol and adrenaline flowing throughout the body, keeping it on high alert levels. All these can cause issues related to stroke and stress, like high blood sugar. Extreme blood sugar levels can restrict your vessels from naturally dilating and contracting to control the blood flow. A significant disruption in your sleep cycles can adversely affect your quality of life and contribute to fatigue. Fatigue develops when a person ignores exercise and eats unhealthy foods. This cycle of doom continues to cause multiple issues that can lead to stress, which then results in strokes.

Can Stress Bring on a Mini-Stroke?

A mini-stroke is called a transient ischemic attack in the medical dictionary[2]. This is a temporary period where the body displays symptoms similar to a stroke but only lasts a few minutes. While the mini-stroke does not cause permanent damage, it can be a warning sign to change your lifestyle. A mini-stroke can include slurred speech, blurred vision, and loss of motor stability. TIAs often occur days before a stroke, so it is not just important but vital to get medical help to treat and evaluate your condition.

Can Anxiety Cause Strokes?

Everyone experiences anxiety in their life with the current pace of the world. While the outlet of each individual might be different, the people showing symptoms of high stress had as high as 33 per cent higher risk than those in the lower levels. Since people with high anxiety levels are likely to smoke while they balance work and be physically inactive, it raises their cortisol levels and contributes to significant health complications.

Knowing that stress can cause a stroke is just the first step. It would be prudent to work on the stress levels and ensure a regular medical checkup to ensure that all is well. Connect with your doctor to know more about your health.

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