Study Finds Hopelessness Can Lead to Stroke

Consistent research has shown that a person’s mental health plays a large role in their physical health. Now, new research out of the University of Minnesota Medical School has found that healthy, middle-aged women experiencing feelings of hopelessness are also experiencing thickening of the neck arteries, which can be a precursor to a stroke. Science Daily recently issued a report on this study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. This study found negative thinking and feelings of uselessness – or hopelessness – affects arteries independent of clinical depression and before women develop clinically relevant cardiovascular disease. This study examined 559 women and found a consistent, progressive and linear association between increasing neck artery thickness and rising levels of hopelessness. The overall difference in the thickening in women with higher hopeless scores versus women with lower scores was the equivalent of one year of thickening. “Previous studies have shown that hopelessness is associated with cardiovascular disease outcomes in men and also in women with documented heart disease. However, this is the first study to suggest that hopelessness may be related to subclinical cardiovascular disease in women without clinical symptoms of heart disease and who are generally healthy,” said Susan A. Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H. in Science Daily. Everson-Rose is a principal investigator of the study, associate director of the Program in Health Disparities Research, and associate professor of medicine. “These findings suggest that women who experience feelings of hopelessness may have greater risk for future heart disease and stroke,” Everson-Rose said. “In fact, our data indicate that hopelessness may be uniquely related to cardiovascular disease risk. We did not see similar relations when looking at global depressive symptoms.”

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