Strokes linked to chronic stress

Chronic stress may be linked to a greater risk of suffering a stroke, new research has suggested. Published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the study found this might be particularly true for type A personality traits - people who are impatient, quick-tempered or aggressive - and when prompted by major life stressors.

According to the investigation, a number of factors are linked to greater stroke risk - with the likelihood of a person experiencing such an illness being almost four times higher for those who had been through a major life event in the last year.

The risk for an individual with a type A personality more than doubled as a consequence of these characteristics, while drinking two or more energy drinks a day and a previous history of smoking also raised the risk by this amount. 

It was demonstrated that these behaviours, as well as leading a stressful life, was connected to increased stroke risk regardless of gender and lifestyle choices.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Cynthia McVey explained: "This finding will not surprise those who have long been aware of the link between stress and health.

Stress is, nevertheless, complex as people react differently to events and how a person perceives a situation and the resources the person has to cope will be reflected in the levels of stress experienced. 

The much debated Type A Personality with its characteristics of impatience, quick temper and aggression has been associated with heart disease and high blood pressure since the 1950s.  Certainly, those who are always in a hurry, find it hard to wait, who are quick to anger and overreact will find even minor events more stressful than those who have calmer personalities.

While threatening major life events will understandably produce stressful responses in everyone, Type A people are more likely to have their”flight or fight” responses set off by relatively minor events leading to a state of constant arousal and their bodies may thus be constantly exposed to stress hormones with all the potential consequences of stress related illness.

The importance of stress in our lives must be taken seriously and the use of helpful coping strategies and relaxation techniques should be encouraged."