Anger or Emotional Upset increases risk of stroke; Study

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Desk Reporter
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According to a global study co-led by NUI Galway, one in 11 stroke survivors have experienced a period of anger or upset in the one hour leading up to it.

The research published in the European Heart Journal found that one in 20 patients had engaged in heavy physical exertion. The possible triggers were discovered as part of the global INTERSTROKE study, the world’s largest research initiative of its kind, which looked at 13,462 acute stroke cases from patients of various ethnic backgrounds in 32 countries, including Ireland.

Stroke is a prominent cause of mortality and disability worldwide. Every year, over 7,500 Irish people suffer a stroke, with about 2,000 of them dying.

Professor Andrew Smyth, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at NUI Galway, Director of the HRB-Clinical Research Facility Galway, and a Consultant Nephrologist at Galway University Hospitals, was one of the lead researchers.

“Stroke prevention is a priority for physicians, and despite advances, it remains difficult to predict when a stroke will occur. Many studies have focused on medium to long-term exposures, such as hypertension, obesity, or smoking. Our study aimed to look at acute exposures that may act as triggers,” said Prof. Smyth.

The research examined patterns in patients who had an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood clot clogs or narrows an artery leading to the brain, as well as intracerebral haemorrhage, a less common type of stroke that involves bleeding within the brain tissue itself.

Prof. Smyth noted, “We looked at two separate triggers. Our research found that anger or emotional upset was linked to an approximately 30 percent increase in the risk of stroke during one hour after an episode — with a greater increase if the patient did not have a history of depression. The odds were also greater for those with a lower level of education.”

“We also found that heavy physical exertion was linked to an approximately 60 percent increase in risk is of intracerebral haemorrhage during the one hour after the episode of heavy exertion. There was a greater increase for women and less risk for those with a normal BMI,” he further said.

The researchers also discovered that there was no increase with exposure to both triggers of anger and heavy physical exertion.

Co-author of the paper, Dr. Michelle Canavan, Consultant Stroke Physician at Galway University Hospitals commented, “Our message is for people to practice mental and physical wellness at all ages. But it is also important for some people to avoid heavy physical exertion, particularly if they are high-risk of cardiovascular, while also adopting a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise.”

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