Excessive worrying is bad for your health. It’s a commonly held view, and one that has been supported by scientific research time and again. Quite apart from the strain they place on your mind and emotions, one of the reasons it’s so important to get treatment for anxiety disorders like Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia is that they can take their toll on your body as well. Studies have found links between high levels of stress and worry and all kinds of negative health outcomes, from difficulty sleeping to weight gain, hair loss and sexual dysfunction.
The association between anxiety disorders and potentially deadly heart-related conditions like coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease is well established. But do anxiety disorders increase your risk of having a stroke as well?
This study by Perez-Pinar et al examined all the previous research into anxiety and the risk of stroke, looking at information on just under 1 million patients from research spanning twelve years. Overall it was found that suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder increases the risk of having a stroke by 24%. This association was strongest in the first three years after being diagnosed with anxiety, and also suggested that the risk is higher for more severe cases of anxiety.
What causes this link between stroke and anxiety disorders? Part of the explanation is likely due to the increased risk of cardiovascular problems that anxiety can produce. The increased strain on your heart caused by anxiety could increase the odds of a stroke occurring years down the line. But there was also evidence to suggest a direct link between anxiety and stroke in terms of the changes anxiety produces in the body. Changes to the heart rhythms, raised tension and blood pressure, and irregularities in the glands and brain areas which control adrenaline in the bloodstream can all contribute to creating a physical condition where strokes are far more likely.
Constant levels of anxiety create a state of hyperactivity where your mind and nervous system are continuously over-exerted. This creates the feelings of being overwhelmed and the inability to switch off which people suffering from anxiety know all too well. It’s no wonder that this relentless state of tension and worry is a major risk factor in having a stroke.
Across the world stroke is the second most common cause of death and can have extremely debilitating effects on those who survive. Looking after your body and mind to minimise the risk of stroke is therefore a very serious issue. For those suffering from anxiety, this research suggests yet another reason that it’s essential to seek expert treatment for anxiety as soon as possible. Learning how to cope with anxiety with the help of an expert counsellor or clinical psychologist lets you take control of your anxiety symptoms and eliminate this potential risk factor from your life. If you are concerned about your mental health and want to make sure anxiety isn’t increasing your risk of stroke and other dangerous health problems, get in touch with us today.