Stroke is the sudden death of some brain cells due to lack of oxygen when the blood flow to the brain is lost by blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain. According to the WHO, it is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability. Stroke is also a leading cause of dementia and depression. For commonly known causes of stroke, please refer to the article “Stroke: Straight Dive or Pavilion” published earlier. While you might have read a number of reasons which lead to stroke, this article focuses on the importance of emotional health to prevent stroke.
There Are 2 Main Types of Stroke
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: is caused by bleeding in the brain due to a weak spot in the wall of the vessel, which can cause an aneurysm (bulging of the vessel wall). The vessels can also be weakened by chronic or very high blood pressure and break from force. When the vessel breaks, blood leaks into surrounding tissue, and the brain doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
- Ischemic Stroke: results from blocked arteries, which often occur from cholesterol build-up, called plaque. Plaques on the inside of the vessel can be fragile when blood flows past, causing the plaque to lift. But in the blood vessel, when a plaque lifts-up and the body tries to heal it, like it would scab on your arm, it makes a clot where that plaque lifted up, which blocks blood flow and can lead to ischemic stroke.
The human body is magical. When the mind perceives a threat or stress, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline to cope with it. These hormones impact the homeostasis of the body; the other parameters get deranged and affect the healing processes of the body. Now, if your personality is to take constant stress, cortisol and level of other stress hormones will be high to ensure the body deals with stress. This could cause retention of salt which might increase blood pressure. Stress also causes an increase in blood sugar, which means the vessels can’t dilate or contract to better control blood flow. Increased cortisol is also known to disrupt sleep cycles leading to fatigue.
Anyone Can Be At Risk…
…for many reasons, not just stress. Sometimes, it just how your body responds.
While there is no concrete reason to state that positive emotions, a stress-free life or a balanced psychological state will not lead to stroke. However, there are numerous research studies to indicate that there might be a relationship between negative emotions, stress & stroke. In my practice, I have usually seen stressed people holding negative emotions fall prey to issues like stress, heart ailments, etc. A University of Michigan study found that men who were more physiologically reactive to stress were 72% more likely to suffer a stroke.
Regardless of how your life or your job is, if you feel you are stressed, you most probably are.
If you’re still unsure, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your significant other tell you, you seem stressed?
- You tend to pick up fights and arguments with your family and co-workers more than normal?
- You resort to alcohol, drugs, smoking to alleviate stress?
- Do you find less joy in things that normally make you happy?
- Do you find it difficult to fall or stay asleep compared to normal?
- You don’t like to get up in the morning, especially on days you know you will come across stress causing situations
If the answer to the above is yes, then it’s time for you to work on yourself. Contemplate on the reason, give attention to the little things in life… It is the little things which lead to bigger changes! Some attitude changes like acceptance and forgiveness make a lot of difference!
Quick tip: Whenever you feel stress, start taking deep breaths. Mentally count till 5 & inhale, count another 5 and exhale. Make it as slow and steady as possible. Taking in more oxygen allows more oxygen to be available to the brain tissues. Some research suggests that deep breathing helps to rehabilitate the brain after a stroke. This style of breathing also helps to relax and calm the mind and whole being.
While everyone faces issues in life, it is the ability to cope with it, be in sync with one’s body which determines health!