Stroke is a leading cause of disability in the United States, and mental illness affects tens of millions of Americans each year.
Over 43 million American adults had a form of mental illness in the past year, according to a report by the National Institute of Mental Health. This is nearly a fifth of all American adults.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke each year, and 130,000 people die from it. Strokes are also the most preventable cause of death in the U.S.
These are startling figures, and to further this research, Jonah P. Zuflacht, a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York led a study found new research that connects mental illness with stroke. The findings were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2017.
Stroke almost 3.5 times more likely in people with psychiatric disorders.
Zuflacht and his team applied a case-crossover analysis to examine if psychiatric disorders led to an increase in the risk of stroke within several time periods.
They found that people who had visited the hospital for a mental health concern were 3.48 times more likely to have a stroke within 15 days of their visit, and 3.11 times more likely within 30 days.
The study’s lead author also commented on the study.
“Healthcare professionals should listen to their patients for symptoms of psychiatric illness, especially in those who may be at increased risk of stroke. A patient with high blood pressure, high cholestrol, and 6 months of depressive symptoms should raise concerns regarding possible stroke risk.” -Dr. Jonah P. Zuflacht
Psychologic distress may cause the brain to react with a “flight or fight” response – the body’s natural reaction to a state of danger. This, in turn, triggers high blood pressure, which is the leading risk factor for stroke.
Psychiatric disorders may also lead to changes within the cell, causing inflammation and oxidative stress, which are also thought to contribute to the risk of stroke, Zuflacht explains.