Higher levels of anxiety associated with increased risk of stroke

Even modest increases in anxiety levels may up a person’s risk of stroke, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

The researchers used data from the first U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a longitudinal study that included more than 6,000 people ages 25 to 74. Participants responded to questionnaires assessing their anxiety and depression, and completed medical tests and interviews. Researchers then followed the participants for the next 22 years using hospital and nursing home records and death certificates.

The researchers found that those participants with the highest levels of anxiety had a 33 percent greater risk for stroke, compared to participants with the lowest levels of anxiety, even after accounting for other factors.

What remains unclear, however, is whether there is a direct cause and effect relationship, reports PsychCentral. The increased risk of stroke could be a result of the unhealthy behaviors that often go hand-in-hand with higher levels of anxiety such as smoking.

With anxiety one of the most common health problems–and often overlooked–further research is needed into the effects of anxiety and its association to the risk of stroke.

The study appeared online ahead of print this month in the journal Stroke.