The greater your anxiety level, the higher your risk of having a stoke, according to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. The study is the first in which researchers linked anxiety and stroke independent of other factors such as depression. Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health problems. Symptoms include feeling unusually worried, stressed, nervous or tense.
Over a 22 -year period, researchers studied a nationally representative group of 6,019 people 25-74 years old in the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants underwent an interview and took blood tests, medical examinations and completed psychological questionnaires to gauge anxiety and depression levels.
Researchers tracked strokes through hospitals or nursing home reports and death certificates. After accounting for other factors, they found that even modest increases in anxiety were associated with greater risk of stroke risk.
“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,” said Maya Lambiase, Ph.D.
People with high anxiety levels are more likely to smoke and be physically inactive, possibly explaining part of the anxiety-stroke link.