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Elderly Who Suffer Psychosocial Distress at Higher Risk of Stroke

Update Date: Dec 14, 2012 06:01 AM EST

 

A new study suggests that people who are 65 and above increase their risk of stroke when they go through a phase of psychosocial distress.

According to the study, psychosocial distress could include depression, stress, dissatisfaction or negative outlook toward life.

For the study, the researchers followed-up with 4,120 people for 10 years and studied the rates of death and stroke incidents. All the participants were aged 65 and above.

Through the study, the researchers identified 151 deaths from stroke and 452 events where participants were hospitalized for the first time due to stroke. It was found that people who were psychologically distressed were three times more likely to die from stroke, while 54 percent of distressed people raised their risk of first hospitalization from stroke compared with people who were least distressed.

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"People should be aware that stress and negative emotions often increase with age," said Susan Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H., study senior author and associate professor of medicine and associate director of the Program in Health Disparities Research at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

"Family members and caregivers need to recognize these emotions have a profound effect on health."

In a different study, researchers also found a link between psychosocial distress and risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding), but not ischemic stroke (caused by blood clot), the report said.

"There was about 70 percent excess risk for each unit increase in distress that wasn't explained by known stroke risk factors," Everson-Rose said. "So there must be other biologic pathways at play linking distress to hemorrhagic stroke in particular."

The researchers used a rating scale to determine the scores of different indicators of psychosocial stress amongst perceived stress, life dissatisfaction, neuroticism and depressive symptoms. The higher the score, the higher was the level of psychosocial distress.

Apart from the scores, the researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with the participants. The interview was aimed at finding the medical history, cognitive function, socioeconomic status, behavioral patterns, traditional risk factors for stroke and psychosocial characteristics of the participants.

"It's important to pay attention when older people complain of distress and recognize that these symptoms have physical effects on health outcome and clearly affect stroke risk," Everson-Rose said.

The study was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. 

 

 

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