Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States. Not only do older people experience strokes, more young people are too! Looking at just people aged 20-44, the number of strokes bumped up from 88 in 1993-94 to 140 in 2005.(1)
Depression Increases Your Risk
In a systematic review and a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies consisting 317,540 participants, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health studied the association between depression and risk of total and subtypes of stroke participants. Pooled analysis showed that depression was associated with:(2)
- 45 percent increased risk for total stroke
- 55 percent increased risk for fatal stroke
- 25 percent increased risk for strokes resulting from when the blood supply to a portion of brain has been interrupted or obstructed.
It should be noted that depressed individuals often have difficulty in incorporating good lifestyle practices. Also depression increases the risk for undesirable clotting by increasing platelet stickiness. Unfortunately, it also substantially reduces blood flow to the front brain.
A Positive Attitude Helps
After controlling for many probable confounders, a Finnish study showed that individuals who had less dispositional pessimism had a 48% less risk of stroke compared to those who had high levels of pessimism.(3)
Optimism protects against stroke. Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at the results of standard optimism tests for 6,044 men and women. All were free of stroke at the study’s start. The optimism score was on a 16-point scale. After adjusting for age, each unit increase in their optimism score reduced stroke risk about 9 percent. Even when the researchers also adjusted for other factors such as smoking, alcohol use, race, gender, hypertension, mental illness, body mass index, and level of physical activity, the association between optimism and reduced risk of stroke remained robust.(4) By cultivating gratitude and focusing on life’s positives, we encourage optimism.
Prehypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and elevated triglycerides also increase one’s risk for stroke. The good news is that the Wildwood Lifestyle Center has winning strategies to help these conditions and thus reduce your risk for stroke.