How to Keep Strokes Away as You Age

Stroke risks increase for seniors that are stressed out and unhappy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) As people approach old age, they have an increased risk of depression and stress. This can lead to physical strain on the body. It can also put them in the express lane for diseases.

A recent study found that stress in people over 65 increases their risk of stroke. Results suggest family members and caretakers should watch for signs of distress.

Much like a heart attack, a stroke deprives the brain of oxygen and kills cells. Another type of stroke results from bleeding in the brain.

"Watch out for signs of stroke."

Kimberly Henderson, BA, of University of Minnesota, and colleagues led the study to find out if stress increased risk of stroke. They also wanted to know what led to death from stroke. The study used data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project. The project is a ten year study that looked at diseases in the elderly.

The researchers reviewed medical files for the 2,649 participants they used. They also looked at information from their interviews. Study participants were interviewed every three years during the project.

The interviewer asked them about their lives. It covered everything from medical history to how they spent their days. They were also asked how stressed out they felt and if they were satisfied with their life. Questions about anxiety and depression were also included.

The average age of the participant was 77 years old. Sixty-two percent were women. Sixty one percent were African-American. There were 151 that died from stroke during the course of the study. Another 452 were admitted to the hospital for their first stroke.

The results suggested those people that were the most distressed had a roughly 31 percent increased relative risk of stroke compared to non-distressed elderly. This number is an oversimplification from a statistic called a hazard ratio.

They were also two times more likely to die from stroke. Also discovered was that stress led to more strokes caused by bleeding (hemorrhagic) than from blood clots (ischemic).

"Better understanding of the psychosocial risk pathways for cerebrovascular disease may lead to future interventions that could reduce the risk of stroke in the elderly" noted the authors in the study.

The authors commented while there study was quite large, it only included African Americans and Caucasians. The results may not be true for other populations.

This study is published online on the Stroke journal website. It was funded by National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The authors disclosed no conflict of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 19, 2012
Last Updated:
December 27, 2012