Study Links Psychiatric Disorders to Stroke Risk
By Alan Mozes
THURSDAY, Feb. 23, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Getting care at a hospital for a psychiatric disorder may be linked to a higher risk of stroke in the following weeks and months, new research suggests.
People who sought care at a hospital for serious mental health conditions — such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder — faced a tripled risk of stroke following their visit, the study authors contended.
The risk started to decrease after 30 days, but remained twice as high for at least a year after the ER visit or hospital stay, the researchers said.
“We have known for some time that people who have a stroke seem to be at an increased risk for later on developing some sort of psychiatric illness, depression or post-stroke psychosis,” said study lead author Jonah Zuflacht. He’s a fourth-year medical student at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.
“But what has been less studied is the inverse of that. Meaning, if you have some sort of psychiatric illness, does it increase the risk for stroke?” he added.
“And what we found is that if you are hospitalized for some sort of mental illness, your risk of stroke is increased, and it’s most increased over the two-week period following your hospitalization,” Zuflacht said.
It’s important to note that the study wasn’t designed to prove a cause and effect; it only found that an ER visit or hospitalization for a psychiatric disorder was associated with a higher risk of stroke.
“As to why, we have theories, but they’re only theories,” Zuflacht said. “At this point we’re not really able to offer a clear explanation as to why that is the case.”
The researchers said they suspect that serious psychiatric illness may send the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response into overdrive. One reaction this might cause is elevated blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke.
“The other possibility is that there are behavioral reasons at work,” Zuflacht said. “For example, are these patients maybe not taking the medications they should be taking to prevent a stroke — like their high blood pressure meds — because of their mental illness? We don’t yet have the data to support either theory, but these are our hypotheses.”