Mind-body professionals and other fitness pros may want to offer beneficial stress reduction services to clients—especially those who are most driven to succeed. Among both men and women, people with a type A personality—characteristic of highly competitive and achievement-oriented individuals—may have a higher risk of stroke than their more relaxed and easy-going peers, according to a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (2012; doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2012-302420). As is the case with heart disease, stress levels seem to be the important risk factor.
Researchers from the Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos in Madrid conducted a study to evaluate the relationship between stress and stroke, with the additional aim of assessing gender influences.
Investigators collected data from 150 patients, aged 18–65, with a diagnosis of stroke. For the control group, the same data was gleaned from 300 local residents with no history of stroke. The information gathered included questionnaires concerning stressful life events, general health, quality of life, and personality type; clinical history related to relevant conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, smoking and sleep apnea; and demographics concerning age, gender, education, and use of stimulants, relaxants or recreational drugs.
Data analysis revealed that stressful habits and type A behavior were associated with high risk of stroke and that gender did not modify this relationship. Study authors noted that addressing the influence of stress could serve as an adjunctive therapeutic line in the primary prevention of stroke among those at risk.
Lead study author Jose Antonio Egido, MD, stroke unit coordinator in the department of neurology at Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos, said, “The association between stroke and high levels of stress in the previous year is consistent. The type A personality probably reflects how individuals cope with stress. Our study emphasizes the need [to take] into account psychological aspects in the evaluation of cerebrovascular risk. This association is not necessarily a causal relationship, so further investigations are recommended.
“We cannot avoid stress in real life, but we can modify the way we face stress. Physical activity is at the present time a strong recommendation in stroke prevention, not only for the cardiovascular effects, but also potentially for the antistress properties of exercise practice.”