Anxious type A personalities are more likely to suffer from strokes than their more mellow counterparts, according to new findings.
Spanish researchers studied 450 people and found that strokes were more common among people with stressful lives and high-strung personalities, even after accounting for risk factors like smoking and diabetes.
Past studies have linked stress to heart disease, but a recent study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, found that stress may also increase stroke risk.
Scientists from the Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos in Madrid compared stroke risk factors, as well as stress levels among the 150 adults who had a stroke and 300 healthy adults. Stress levels were determined using standardized tests evaluating major life events, anxiety and depression, general well-being and personality type.
Participants also completed lifestyle questionnaires assessing their caffeine, alcohol and energy drink intake, smoking status and their employment status. Results from the study indicated that having had a stressful major life event in the past year quadrupled the risk of stroke, while having a type A personality doubled the risk.
The study also found that people who drank more than two energy drinks a day or who smoke or have smoked in the past were also twice as likely to suffer a stroke.
Some behaviors associated with overachieving type A personalities include hostility, aggression, competitiveness, impatience and a quick temper. Previous studies have also linked physical characteristics like having facial tension or sweating and dark circles under the eyes to people with type A personalities.
"Addressing the influence of psychophysical factors on stroke could constitute an additional therapeutic line in the primary prevention of stroke in the at-risk population and, as such, warrants further investigation," the study authors wrote.
Health experts say that the latest finding could help health care professionals better understand the effect of stress on stroke risk, but noted that while the study did find a correlation, it did not prove that stress caused strokes.
"This study is useful and valuable because it shows us that there is an association between stress, type A personalities and stroke risk," said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, director of the integrated cardiovascular intervention program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, according to HealthDay. "Stress can elevate blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke."