As Anxiety Levels Go Up, So May Stroke Risk

woman depressed. series
woman depressed. series

People with high anxiety levels may also have a greater risk of stroke, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found an association between anxiety and stroke risk, with people in the highest third of anxiety symptoms having a 33 percent increased risk of stroke, compared with people with the lowest level of anxiety symptoms.

"Everyone has some anxiety now and then. But when it's elevated and/or chronic, it may have an effect on your vasculature years down the road," study author Maya Lambiase, Ph.D., a cardiovascular behavioral medicine researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Indeed, anxiety itself is considered normal when faced with stress, but chronic anxiety that affects daily life then becomes an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders are typically treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a mixture of the two.

While the study does not show that anxiety causes stroke, Lambiase noted that people with greater anxiety levels might be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as sedentary activity or smoking, which are known stroke risk factors. Other potential factors could include higher blood pressure or stress hormone levels.

The study, published in the journal Stroke, is based on data from 6,019 people ages 25 to 74 who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I. Researchers found that the stroke-anxiety association held true even after accounting for other potential factors, such as depression.