Can Sadness and Stress Cause a Stroke?

It may be a new year, but some people are finding it hard to let go of last year’s news about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds passing only one day apart. Reports state that Reynolds could not cope with the loss of her daughter and had a stroke. Could a stroke really be caused by extreme emotion? Dr. Pascal Jabbour, a vascular neurosurgeon at the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute of Neuroscience at Jefferson explains how this could have happened.

Is it possible to have a stroke due to extreme stress and/or sadness?
Not directly, but stress and sadness can indirectly cause a stroke. When patients have stress, they can have increased blood pressure. This can cause blood vessels to rupture and lead to brain hemorrhage, which is a type of stroke called hemorrhagic. A hemorrhagic stroke can happen pretty quickly.

Are there other types of strokes?
Another type of stroke is an ischemic stroke, and that cannot be directly caused by blood pressure. Ischemic strokes occur when there is a constriction of blood vessels. Blood clots and creates an obstruction in the vessels. This is something that independently happens in the body and cannot be influenced by things like stress or sadness.

What can you do to prevent a stroke in a distressed time?
Since we discussed that a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a spike in blood pressure, it is important to ensure that the blood pressure remains under control. Try to remain calm, and take deep breaths.

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