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What to Know About the Worrisome Link Between Stress and Stroke

If you need another reason to get your stress levels under control, here’s one—high stress is correlated with an increased risk of stroke.

Research has found that you’re at higher odds of having a stroke if you face job-related stress or chronic stress, or if you have a type A personality where you’re impatient, aggressive or quick to get angry.

Why stress increases your risk for stroke

When you’re stressed, your heart works harder, your blood pressure rises and the levels of sugar and fat in your blood climb. These changes can make it more likely that a blood clot could form and reach your brain, triggering a stroke. Stress also increases your risk of diabetes, which is another risk factor for stroke.

How to spot the signs of stress

You might recognize that you’re stressed—you feel overwhelmed, anxious or fatigued. But sometimes stress sneaks up on you, especially if it’s part of your day-to-day life. That’s when you can watch for other markers.

If you’re gaining weight or you’re seeing increases in your blood pressure or blood sugars, your stress level might be putting you at higher risk for stroke, according to Ning (Sarah) Yang, MD, a neurologist with Banner Brain & Spine.

Stroke can strike at any age

Dr. Yang pointed out that stroke isn’t just a problem for older people. “Stroke can affect young people as well. Specifically, workplace stress and long working hours in young adults have been linked to increased risk of stroke,” she said.

How to get your stress levels under control

There are activities you can try and habits you can build that can help lower your stress levels. Experiment and find a few that work best for you:

  • Meditate
  • Practice yoga
  • Write in a journal
  • Laugh more
  • Connect with other people
  • Get enough sleep
  • Listen to music
  • Practice a hobby that takes focus

More steps you can take to lower your risk for stroke

Stress isn’t the only risk factor for stroke—you can make lifestyle changes that lower your risk further. “Exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to reduce stress and stroke risk,” Dr. Yang said.

And when you change these lifestyle habits, the benefits reach beyond stress and stroke. “These habits not only decrease your risk of stroke, but they also decrease your risk of many other health problems that can occur as you get older, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia,” Dr. Yang said.

The bottom line

If stress is part of your life, it can increase your risk of stroke. But taking the right steps can reduce both your stress and your other stroke risk factors.

To evaluate your risk of stroke based on your age, sex, body size, ethnicity and risk factors, try our interactive Banner Health Stroke Risk Profiler.

To find a healthcare provider who can help you reduce your stress and your chances of stroke based on your specific risk factors, visit bannerhealth.com.

If you would like to learn more about stroke and its risk factors, check out:

Behavioral Health Heart Health Stress Wellness Brain and Spine