Anxiety Tied to Stroke Risk

Stroke risk increased as anxiety levels increased in new study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Anxiety strikes some people every once in a while, but for others, the symptoms are intense and lasting. New research suggests that this anxiety may affect stroke risk.

The American Heart Association recently released a study on the link between anxiety symptoms and stroke risk.

Using data on American adults, the researchers found that people who reported more severe symptoms of anxiety were significantly more likely to have a stroke.

The authors of this study suggested that dealing with chronic anxiety may help to reduce stroke risk.

"Talk to your doctor if you have chronic anxiety."

Maya Lambiase, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, led this study on stroke and anxiety.

Anxiety is characterized by stress, worrying and uneasiness. Most people experience anxiety from time to time, but for some, it can become a mental disorder when it is uncontrollable.

This study aimed to examine the link between anxiety levels and stroke rates.

The researchers used data from the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and Follow-up Studies.

The data came from a sample of the US population that was followed for an average of 16 years.

The survey participants underwent an interview, physical exam and blood sample.

A subsample of the total participants consisting of 6,019 people underwent a more thorough medical exam, and the researchers assessed measures of psychological health.

The researchers took information on anxiety symptoms by asking the participants about their levels of anxiety during the past month.

Using hospital and nursing home discharge reports and death certificates, the researchers also kept track of which patients had experienced a stroke during the follow-up period.

A total of 419 participants had strokes during the follow-up period.

The researchers found that higher anxiety symptoms were linked to a higher risk of stroke, regardless of other heart disease risk factors and depressive symptoms.

People who scored in the highest third of anxiety symptoms had a 33 percent higher risk of having a stroke than those in the bottom third.

Additionally, there seemed to be a dose-response relationship between anxiety and stroke, meaning that the risk level corresponded to the anxiety level.

The authors of this study concluded that addressing anxiety symptoms may help with reducing a person's risk of stroke.

These authors acknowledged that the study had some limitations, including patients self-reporting their medical history.

They also emphasized the importance of further research on the effect that anxiety may have on specific types of stroke.

"The study concluded that anxiety symptoms were indeed associated with a higher likelihood of stroke, though the relationship appears to be driven through behavior patterns that coincide with or are driven by anxiety, including cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and lack of physical activity," Mohan Sathyamoorthy, MD, chief of the Baylor All Saints Medical Center Cardiovascular Division, told dailyRx News.

"It is an exploratory study that suggests that identification and treatment of anxiety disorders may help impact cardiovascular health," Dr. Sathyamoorthy added.

This study was published in Stroke on December 19.

The research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 19, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014