Can Stress Cause A Stroke
Heres how chronic stress and anxiety may affect your risk of having a stroke.
Did you know that stress and anxiety may increase your risk of experiencing a disabling or deadly stroke? One stressed out day wont necessarily affect your stroke risk, but unmanaged chronic stress may. In fact, chronic stress and anxiety, in addition to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, are key factors that affect stroke risk.
Stress is an unavoidable fact of life for many of us. Work demands, family issues and concerns about health and finances send stress levels soaring. During the past few months, stress and anxiety levels have increased for many people in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic creates uncertainty in our lives. While some of this stress is unavoidable, finding ways to manage it can help lower stroke risk and keep you healthier overall, as well as helping you to feel calmer and happier.
How Stress Affects Stroke Risk
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is completely or partially blocked due to a blood clot, clogged blood vessel or bleeding in the brain. When the amount of oxygen-rich blood your brain receives decreases, brain cells die. Paralysis, speech difficulties, balance or memory issues and/or muscle weakness may occur as a result of cell death. Some of these problems can be overcome with therapy, while others may be permanent. Strokes can even cause death if brain damage is severe.
How to Lower Stress in Healthy Ways
Different Types Of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders fall into several categories. Here are a few of them:
- Panic disorder can be associated with cardiac disease or mistaken for heart attack. Feelings of extreme agitation and terror are often accompanied by dizziness, chest pains, stomach discomfort, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder a condition that can follow a shocking or frightening incident or sudden, life-threatening event such as a violent crime, major accident, or heart attack. A person suffering from PTSD often has trouble dealing with anything associated with the incident that caused their condition, and experiences feelings of jitteriness and detachment.
- Obsessive-Compulsive disorder People with OCD will manage unreasonable thoughts and worries by performing the same actions over and over. For example, an individual obsessed with perceived cardiovascular symptoms that have been checked and cleared by a physician may compulsively research them or find new ones for hours on end.
How To Tell The Difference Between A Heart Attack And Panic Attack
Chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea: Are you having a heart attack or a panic attack?
Doctors and psychologists agree you shouldn’t take a chance on it not being a heart attack.
That’s because the symptoms of a heart attack and panic attack are so similar that it sometimes can be hard to tell the difference, said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, chief of cardiology at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. “If in doubt, one would want to err on the side of caution and be quickly evaluated in an ER to make sure this was not a heart attack.”
Heart attacks can be sudden and intense, but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort that gradually worsens over a few minutes. These episodes might come and go several times before the actual heart attack occurs.
A heart attack happens when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off, usually by blockage of coronary arteries. Calling 911 and getting immediate treatment is critical.
But if a medical workup shows your heart health is good, then you might have had a panic attack especially if intense fear, the hallmark symptom, accompanied the physical symptoms.
“It’s not all in your head. It’s the fight or flight response. The alarm system is going off. But with a panic attack, it’s burnt toast not the house on fire,” Gallagher said.
“They mess with your head,” Gallagher said. “Your brain can’t make sense of what’s happening.”
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How To Get Rid Of The Stress
Here are some habits you can implement in your day-to-day life to ensure that you arent too stressed!
1. Exercise!People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety as against people who dont. Exercise helps release endorphins, which improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. Exercising regularly can also help regulate your sleep patterns, and boost your confidence by improving your overall appearance!
2. Maintain A Healthy Diet!Make sure your diet includes a healthy mix of green leafy vegetables, water, and less caffeine. High doses of coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks can increase anxiety! Test your sensitivity to caffeine before cutting down on it entirely.
3. Laugh A Lot!Laughing can help relieve tension by relaxing the muscles. In the long term too, laughter can improve your immune system and mood.
A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted.
4. Spend Time With Family and Friends!Having a rich social life can alleviate stress. Spending time with the people you love releases oxytocin that is a natural stress reliever!
5. Learn To Say No!Not all factors causing stress are within your control. But, you can always try to be selective of the responsibilities you take on, especially when it comes to work. Taking on more than you can handle, and then trying to juggle it all successfully, can cause a lot of stress.
Getting Help For Depression And Anxiety
Depression and anxiety can make it difficult to manage from day to day, and to participate in your rehabilitation. Depression and anxiety can affect how you feel about yourself, and can have an impact on your relationships.
While depression and anxiety are common, they are also highly treatable. Recovery is possible and there are many things that can help. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will move towards recovery.
If you think depression or anxiety may be an issue for you, speak to your doctor. It is important to have a medical diagnosis and a treatment plan that takes into account your personal situation, needs and preferences. Some medications can make you lethargic which can feel like the symptoms of depression, so a medication review can be helpful as a part of this process.
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What Happens To Your Heart Rate During A Panic Attack
In many cases, a panic attack triggers a fast heart rate, also known as tachycardia. The heart rate may speed up to 200 beats per minute or even faster.
A fast heart rate can make you feel lightheaded and short of breath. Or you might feel fluttering or pounding in the chest. Usually, tachycardia that happens in response to emotional stress and only lasts a few minutes is not harmful. But if it happens regularly, or you have possible symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical care.
Can A Panic Attack Cause A Heart Attack
A panic attack is unlikely to cause a heart attack, but its possible. Emotional stress plays a role in both conditions. Both panic attacks and heart attacks can occur during or after a stressful situation, says Dr. Miller. But most of the time, people have a panic attack rather than a heart attack in response to emotional stress.
People who have anxiety, depression or chronic stress may have a higher risk of heart problems. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.
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Health Anxiety Can Interfere With Your Life But It’s Highly Treatable
You spend hours on the Internet researching health information. When you get a scratchy throat you automatically think cancer not a cold. And even when medical tests come back showing that you’re healthy, it doesn’t make you feel better. In the back of your mind you still feel like something is wrong.
If this sounds like you or a loved one, it may be health anxiety.
Health anxiety is a condition that causes healthy people to worry that they are sick even when they have no symptoms, or minor symptoms like a scratchy throat.
“People with health anxiety for the most part tend to fear severe illness, such as HIV, cancer, or dementia. They worry far less about strep throat, twisting their ankle, or getting a cold,” says Dr. Timothy Scarella, instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. This fear that they have a serious illness can interfere with their daily life. It might lead them to seek out unnecessary testing, to waste hours in the doctor’s office, and to spend days consumed by worry. But it’s not only their own health that people with health anxiety may focus on. “Some people also worry excessively about their children’s health,” he says.
Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
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How Do I Know If I Have Heart Problems Or Anxiety
While there is no specific test that can diagnose heart problems, there are several things that you can for yourself. Ask your doctor to perform a series of tests to give you a better idea of what is going on. By doing this, you will also begin to see if the treatments are working or not. If you would like to see if your heart palpitations are caused by anxiety, you might want to look into the medication you are taking. There is a medicine called beta blockers, which can help you with your heart palpitations and also with your anxiety. If you have a history of anxiety, talk to your doctor about a medicine that might help you..
Symptoms Of Stroke Can Be Similar To An Anxiety Attack
Q: I’ve been on blood pressure medication for 20 years and am now going through menopause. For me, this includes anxiety attacks. Symptoms of stroke and anxiety attacks seem pretty similar. How can I know for sure if I’m having a stroke versus an anxiety attack?
A: It’s true that the hormonal changes that take place during menopause, specifically to estrogen and progesterone, can result in feelings of anxiety that range from mild to extreme. And while an anxiety attack is considered a psychological disorder, it causes physical effects that can be distressing. That’s because when we become anxious, stressed or panicky, our brains send signals to the body that it should prepare to protect itself, either through fight or flight. Those signals include the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which are often referred to as stress hormones. They cause the heart to race and the blood vessels to constrict, which can result in symptoms like dizziness, nausea, feeling faint, sweating, tingling sensations or numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, heart arrhythmias, sudden headache, and a sense of dislocation or unreality.
As you say, anxiety attacks and all three types of stroke can share overlapping symptoms. The strokes themselves can vary in the way that they present. However, one thing that all strokes have in common is the sudden onset of symptoms. These include:
Sudden numbness or weakness in arms, legs or face, especially when affecting just one side of the body.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
A heart attack is when part of your heart doesnt get enough blood. This usually happens because an artery that supplies blood to the heart is blocked. Common heart attack symptoms include:
- Chest pain or pressure.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Feeling of impending doom.
A heart attack can be life-threatening, so dont wait to see if the symptoms go away. Seek immediate medical care if you have signs of a heart attack.
What Else It Could Be
Take a deep breath and try not to worry if youâre feeling off. A lot of things can mimic stroke symptoms.
Stress is one of them. âEverybodyâs body deals with it differently,â Rippee says. Heâs treated people whoâve had changes in their vision and speech that were actually caused by stress and anxiety.
Or, Rippee says, it could be:
- Migraine headaches. Migraines can look like a stroke. They can affect your vision and make you feel weak. If you have migraines, you have a higher risk of having a stroke, so watch your symptoms closely. If you have any of the warning signs, get medical attention right away.
- High blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, it can cause headaches, feelings of weakness, and vision problems. This is what you might hear a doctor call âuncontrolled hypertension.â Itâs also a major risk factor for stroke. For most people, normal blood pressure is a top number of 120 or less and a bottom number of 80 or less.
- Anxiety. It could make you feel numb around the mouth or fingertips.
- Changes in blood sugar. Too little or too much can cause vision problems, especially if you have diabetes and arenât taking your medication, like insulin, or if you took too much. It could also cause you to feel confused, similar to a stroke.
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Watch For Subtle Signs Of A Heart Attack
A heart attack might seem like it came out of nowhere. But in many cases, chest pain due to heart disease, known as angina, appears in the days or weeks before a cardiac event.
You may feel a twinge or some pain in the shoulder or chest but think its something else, says Dr. Miller. The symptoms go away. Then later, the pain gets worse, or you feel a little off. Then the heart attack hits. These early signs can be hard to identify.
Stroke Symptoms To Watch For
An easy way to recognize the warning signs of stroke is to think F.A.S.T.
- F – Face. Can you, or the person having the symptoms, smile? Does one side of the face droop?
- A – Arms. Can you, or the person having the symptoms, raise both arms? Does one drift downward?
- S – Speech. Can you, or the person having the symptoms, repeat a single phase? Is the speech slurred or strange?
- T – Time. If you see any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
âStroke is an emergency, and itâs important that you get to the hospital,â Diones says. âWe want you to call 911 if you are having symptoms. Even if it turns out you arenât having a stroke, you could be having other health issues. Itâs still important to work with your health care provider and be assessed and get the help you need.â
Thereâs also something that Rippee says is just as serious as a stroke but harder to diagnose: a ministroke, called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Symptoms are similar to a stroke but can go away quickly, often by the time someone sees a doctor. It can be a warning sign that you’re heading for a more serious stroke, so take action to stop that before it starts.
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Coping With Anxiety After Stroke: Methods And Treatments
Stroke can cause a number of different physical and emotional secondary effects. One of the most common emotional challenges after stroke is anxiety.
Coping with anxiety after stroke can be difficult. Thats why todays article will walk you through the different options you can use to manage anxiety. These options will include both medications and natural alternatives.
Anxiety Linked To Long Term Stroke Risk
The greater the anxiety level, the higher risk of having a stroke, according to research published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke from December 2013.
The study is the first in which researchers linked anxiety and stroke independent of other factors such as depression. Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health problems. Symptoms include feeling unusually:
Over a 22-year period, researchers studied a nationally representative group of 6,019 people 25-74 years old in the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Participants underwent an interview and took blood tests, medical examinations and completed psychological questionnaires to gauge anxiety and depression levels.
Even modest increases in anxiety associated with greater stroke risk
Researchers tracked strokes through hospital or nursing home reports and death certificates. After accounting for other factors, they found that even modest increases in anxiety were associated with greater stroke risk.
People in the highest third of anxiety symptoms had a 33 percent higher stroke risk than those with the lowest levels.
Everyone has some anxiety now and then. But when its elevated and/or chronic, it may have an effect on your vasculature years down the road, said Maya Lambiase, Ph.D., study author and cardiovascular behavioral medicine researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pittsburgh.
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How To Tell The Difference Between Anxiety And A Mini Stroke
Only a doctor can tell you with 100% certainty if what you’ve experienced is stroke-like symptoms from an anxiety attack or an actual stroke. But generally there are several ways to tell the difference between the two, including:
As you can see, the differences are subtle. But they are definitely there, and if you are willing to think about the attack logically you’ll often find that it’s clear what occurred. However, it is critical to rule out a cerebrovascular event first.