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Sudden Movements Can Bring on Stroke

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Feb. 11, 2002 -- Abruptly changing body position or posture -- as happens when you're startled by a loud noise -- could trigger ischemic stroke in some people, according to a new study.

In an ischemic stroke, a blood clot blocks the blood flow to the brain.

Israeli researchers looked at what had happened in the lives of 150 male and female ischemic stroke patients (average age 68) in the two hours just before their stroke and during the same two hours the day before. They asked the patients whether they'd experienced any emotional stress or anger, sudden physical effort, sudden changes in environmental temperatures, or a sudden change in body position or posture.

In all, 67 patients (nearly 45%) reported a potential triggering event in the two hours before their stroke. Of these, 33 patients (22%) reported sudden changes in body position, and 20 (more than 13%) reported negative emotional stress.

"Abrupt changes in body position caused by sudden loud noises, calls for help, or other unexpected events occurred within two hours of stroke onset in more than one-fifth of the stroke patients we studied," says study leader Silvia Koton, MOccH, RN, from Tel Aviv University, in a news release. Negative emotional stress and anger were the next most common triggers.

It's already known that heart attacks often are preceded by emotional and environmental stresses -- physical exertion, for example. But until now, there was no evidence that the same sorts of events and conditions could bring on a stroke.

According to Koton, it may be that the triggers for ischemic stroke are similar to, but more complex than, the triggers for heart attack. "Various triggers may act differently, and we are studying those issues" in larger groups of patients.

"The most important finding of this study is the recognition of new risk factors for ischemic stroke that function as short-term triggers rather than factors such a [high blood pressure] and smoking, which affect long-term risk," says Koton. "Older people, in particular, need to be aware of the potential negative influence of reactions to emotions and to sudden exposure to familiar, but startling activities such as a ring of a doorbell or telephone."

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