New research discovers a strong link between stress and ischemic cerebral vascular accidents, popularly known as strokes.

University of Gothenburg researchers studied the correlation between self-reported feelings of prolonged psychological stress and different stroke subtypes. The report is found in the open access journal BMC Medicine.

Katarina Jood and her team led the study, in which 566 acute stroke patients and 593 controls were asked to rate their stress levels on a 6-point sliding scale from ‘never stressed’ to ‘permanently stressed for the past 5 years.’ The patients were split into stressed (permanent stress for 1 year or greater) and nonstressed (never stressed or infrequent periods of stress) groups.

When this was compared with stroke incidence and the type, there was a strong correlation between prolonged stress and large vessel disease, small vessel disease and cryptogenic stroke.

“Our results should be interpreted with caution as the case-control-design may lead to an overestimation of stress as a risk factor for stroke. However, the study contributes with important indications that the association between stress and stroke may differ between different stroke subtypes, and it calls for further prospective studies of the relation between stress and stroke,” says Jood.

Stress may be related to behaviors associated with an increased susceptibility for stroke, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and socioeconomic status. Moreover, frequent or persistent activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamus as well as pituitary and adrenal glands may also lead to hypertension or metabolic disturbances that could lead to strokes.

Strokes are currently one of the biggest killers in the world, causing 9.7 percent of deaths according to the World Health Organization, so knowledge of their causation is vital.

Source: BioMed Central