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    Can Stress Increase Your Risk for Having a Stroke?


    Lynch says that this blood pressure reactivity varies greatly but generally those who are poorer and less educated are more susceptible to stress-induced increases in blood pressure.

    "One doesn't have to be a rocket scientists to figure out that more bad things happen to people in lower economic classes," he says. In this study men who were poor and who had sudden blood pressure increases were "three times more likely to have a stroke."

    Stroke expert Larry Goldstein, MD, says that all the researchers found was "a relationship between [increased systolic pressure] in response to a stressful situation and future risk of stroke," and that relationship or association is nothing to write home about, and certainly no need for alarm.

    Goldstein points out that the authors didn't look for any other causes that might increase the risk for stroke, such as a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the brain or a type of irregular heart beat called atrial fibrillation. They also didn't take into account overall blood pressure measurements, says Goldstein, who is director of the cerebrovascular disease center at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association.

    Most importantly, says Goldstein, the authors don't indicate if treating the stress-induced blood pressure increases could lower the risk for stroke.

    Lynch agrees that the study offers a tantalizing observation but says that it shouldn't influence clinical treatment. "Individual patients should always be treated by physicians who know them well and know the patients' risk factors," says Lynch.

    For more on this topic, check out <a href="/NR/internal.asp?GUID={C78E20D6-B318-436C-AC71-B7E7FF79CAAA}">Managing Stress Can Lower Blood Pressure</a> on WebMD today about stress, how it affects your blood pressure, and what you can do about it.

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