Type A personalities—those who tend to become more quick-tempered, impatient or aggressive — may be at greater risk for having a stroke, compared to laid-back individuals.
These personality traits were tied to a two-fold increase in stroke risk in a new Spanish study, published this week in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Experiencing chronic stress increased stroke risk nearly four-fold.
Stress is a well-known risk factor for having a heart attack, but the research is among the first to imply a close link to stroke.
“Our findings indicate that people can lower their stroke risk by attempting to reduce the stress in their lives,” said researcher Ana Maria Garcia, M.D., of the Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos in Madrid.
For the study, researchers observed 150 people who’d had strokes and 300 randomly selected people with no stroke history. The average age of the participants was 54—much younger than the typical stroke patient.
Garcia noted that studying the link between stress and stroke was easier in younger people since they were less likely to have health issues like high blood pressure that have been associated with stroke.
All study volunteers were assessed for these known stroke risk factors. They also reported information about life stressors and other lifestyle factors that may affect their risk, including alcohol use, coffee and energy drink use, and smoking history.
Researchers from the study discovered that having a type A personality, being a current or past smoker, and drinking two or more energy drinks a day doubled the chances of having a stroke. Chronic stress and having a type A personality persisted as strong risks for stroke even after the researchers accounted for these other factors.
The study also found that experiencing a major life event that produced chronic stress within the previous eight months was a strong risk factor for stroke.
Finally, having a heart rhythm disorder and being excessively sleepy during the day (which is a leading symptom of sleep apnea) were both tied to triple the risk.
Stroke specialist Rafael Ortiz, M.D., director of the Center for Stroke and Neuro-Endovascular Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said the study adds to the evidence that stress is a strong risk factor for stroke.
He adds that known risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, artery disease, heart disease and smoking.
“This study gives us another reason to counsel patients with these risk factors to try and reduce the stress in their lives,” he said.
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