Women who are otherwise healthy but suffer from feelings of hopelessness are at a higher risk of suffering a stroke, finds a new study in the journal Stroke.
“The findings suggest women who experience feelings of hopelessness may have an increased risk for future heart disease and stroke,” said Susan Everson-Rose of the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Twice as many women die of stroke than breast cancer each year. Stroke is the third leading cause of death among women in the U.S. and shares many of the same risk factors as heart disease, which is the leader. Overall, an estimated 600,000 people suffer from a stroke in the U.S. yearly.
A stroke can cause severe brain damage by depriving the brain cells of blood. Toxic oxygen molecules (free radicals) can cause even more damage to the brain.
A study published last year found people that have heart disease and who are depressed often have a higher risk of future heart attack or stroke because depression keeps them from exercising and eating healthy foods.
The study involved 559 women who had no clinical signs of cardiovascular disease. Researchers asked the participants questions about the future and personal goals to measure hopelessness. And ultrasound imaging was used to measure the thickness of their neck arteries.
“We found, women who reported feeling hopeless about the future or their goals had more thickening in the neck arteries – more atherosclerosis – a predictor of stroke and subsequent heart attack,” Everson-Rose told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Overall, women measuring higher on the hopelessness scale had .02 millimeters more thickening, equal to the amount caused by one year of aging. Women with the highest hopeless scores had an average .06 millimeters greater thickening than those with the lowest scores.
The researchers analyzed differences between women who were hopeless and those suffering from depression. They found, thickening of the neck arteries is a specific feature to hopelessness.
There is a take home message, said Everson-Rose is: “Physicians should tell patients that emotional states can have a physical effect and they should seek appropriate treatment for them. Psychiatric treatment for severe depression and hopelessness is warranted.”
Risk Factors for Heart Disease/Stroke that can be Modified
Quit smoking - Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the U.S. It is a major cause of heart disease among women.
High blood cholesterol – is a major risk factor for heart disease and also increases the risk of stroke.
High blood pressure – is another major risk factor for heart attack and the most important risk factor for stroke.
Get moving – lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and indirectly increases stroke risk. Overall, heart disease is twice as likely to develop in inactive people, compared to those who are more active.
Lose a few – too much fat, especially in the waist area, can lead to a host of other health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. #