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Can anxiety cause a stroke

Can Anxiety Cause a Stroke?

Writen By: Sadia Mirza
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: May 28, 2024

Have you ever wondered if anxiety, a familiar feeling of unease, and worry, could lead to something as serious as a stroke? If you are struggling with anxiety, you might find yourself asking, Can anxiety cause a stroke? This question is more than just a fleeting thought—it’s a profound concern that touches on the complicated connection between mental and physical health.

Let’s look at this from the research published in AHA Journals, as it shows that a greater level of anxiety is associated with an increased risk of stroke. Anxiety is a highly prevalent mental health condition and many people going through it don’t know that its consequences can be that much greater. 

Let’s educate ourselves more about anxiety, as it can affect the skin by causing itching, impact muscles by causing tics, and even increase the risk of a stroke. In this blog post, we will look at the connection between stroke and anxiety and what you can do to avoid stroke. Discover powerful tools to manage anxiety and protect your health. Don’t miss the expert-recommended books at the end of this blog. So be ready to find the answer to, Can stress or anxiety cause a stroke? and everything related to it.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that is characterized by feelings of worry, apprehension, fear, and physical changes. It helps us deal with challenging situations by preparing us to react quickly. Anxiety turns into a disorder when it becomes excessive and interferes with daily life.

Prevalence of Anxiety

A survey conducted on a large population showed that up to 33.7% of people go through an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Mental Symptoms 

  • Excessive worry and intrusive thoughts.
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing.
  • Feeling on edge and restless.
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy.
  • Anticipating negative outcomes.
  • Difficulty making decisions.

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue and low energy. 
  • Muscle tension and aches. 
  • Headaches and dizziness.
  • Rapid heartbeat and palpitations. 
  • Sweating and trembling.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
  • Stomach upset and nausea.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.

Behavioral Symptoms 

  • Avoiding situations that trigger anxiety.
  • Seeking reassurance from others.
  • Engaging in safety behaviors.
  • Irritability and anger.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

Before you know the answer to Can anxiety cause a stroke?, its important for you to know what a stroke is. 

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is also called a ‘brain attack.’ It is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is disrupted. This disruption in the brain occurs due to three main reasons:

  • Blocked Artery (Ischemic Stroke): It is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when a vessel that supplies blood to the brain gets blocked. The blockage results in the killing of brain cells. Research shows that about 87% of strokes are ischemic.
  • Ruptured Artery (Hemorrhagic Stroke): A hemorrhagic stroke occurs due to the rupture of a blood vessel that causes bleeding into the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke can result in severe brain damage that may cause a permanent coma. Research indicates that hemorrhagic stroke contributes to 10-20% of strokes in a year. 
  • Transient Ischemic Attack: Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA is also known as a ‘Mini Stroke.’ It occurs when a temporary blood clot affects blood flow to the brain. It’s harder to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to a stroke.

Types Of Strokes

  1. Thrombotic Stroke occurs when a blood clot forms within an artery in the brain.
  1. Embolic Stroke occurs when a blood clot or debris travels from elsewhere in the body and gets lodged in a brain artery.
  1. Intracerebral Hemorrhage (ICH) occurs when a blood vessel within the brain leaks or ruptures.
  1. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (SAH) occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain ruptures, it causes Subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Symptoms Of Stroke

Recognizing the signs of a stroke can help you act quickly and get the necessary treatment. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Severe headache, much more worse than you have ever had before.
  • You may feel dizziness and weakness on one side of your body. 
  • You may have sudden trouble with balance and coordination, making walking difficult.
  • You might have trouble speaking or understanding speech.
  • You may feel sudden vision loss or blurriness in one or both eyes.
  • You might have trouble swallowing.
  • In severe cases, a stroke can cause a sudden loss of consciousness.

Recognizing these symptoms early and seeking immediate medical attention can significantly improve the chances of recovery and reduce the risk of long-term disability.

Can anxiety cause a stroke

Now that you have a basic understanding of anxiety and stroke, let us address the question, “Can anxiety cause a stroke?” and discuss how the two are related.

Can Anxiety Cause a Stroke?

Our mind is connected to our body in so many ways. If we feel stressed out and anxious about something, then it has a great impact on our physical health, and gut health and makes us more susceptible to diseases. This makes us wonder Can anxiety cause a stroke? The specific connection between anxiety and stroke remains an active area of research with some complexities. Here’s a review of the research on anxiety and stroke:

  • According to a study published in the journal Stroke in 2014, people who reported more anxiety symptoms were more likely to experience a stroke later in life, even after considering other risk factors like high blood pressure or cholesterol. The increased stroke risk held true even when accounting for depression, suggesting anxiety has its own independent effect. The study suggests that unhealthy behaviors people might adopt due to anxiety (like smoking or a poor diet) could be a pathway linking anxiety to stroke risk. The study followed participants for over 16 years, strengthening the evidence for a long-term connection. 
  • Another study in 2012 found that people who reported experiencing more stressful life events (using the Holmes and Rahe questionnaire) and exhibited Type A behavior patterns (competitive, impatient) were at a significantly higher risk of stroke compared to the control group. Interestingly, both men and women showed a similar increase in stroke risk with higher stress levels. Since stress is a component of anxiety, this adds to the evidence that anxiety may lead to stroke.
  • Moreover, a recent study (2022) sheds light on the potential link between emotional pressure and stroke risk. Researchers found that people experiencing various forms of stress, including everyday challenges, sudden stressful events, and problems at home, work, or in relationships, were more likely to have a stroke within the next year. 

Now, anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with these kinds of emotional pressures. Constant worry, feeling on edge, and struggling to cope with challenges can all be signs of anxiety. So, while this study doesn’t directly say anxiety causes stroke, it highlights how chronic emotional strain might be a risk factor.

While the exact cause-and-effect relationship between anxiety and stroke is still being investigated, the research we’ve explored paints a compelling answer to your query, “Can Anxiety Cause a Stroke?” Several studies suggest a connection between chronic emotional strain and stroke risk. Since anxiety often manifests as this kind of emotional pressure, it’s reasonable to consider it a potential risk factor.

How Does Anxiety lead to a Stroke?

Now that we’ve explored the connection between anxiety and stroke risk, let’s delve deeper. Here are some potential mechanisms by which anxiety might increase stroke risk:

  • When you’re anxious, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise. Chronically elevated blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, as it puts stress on blood vessels and increases the risk of them rupturing or becoming blocked.
  • Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can also cause platelets to clump together, a normal “fight-or-flight” response. However, chronic stress can lead to excessive platelet activation, increasing the risk of harmful blood clots. These clots can travel to the brain, potentially causing a stroke.
  • Anxiety and stress can trigger low-grade inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can damage blood vessel walls, making them more susceptible to rupture or narrowing, potentially leading to stroke.
  • Anxiety may also build up plaque in the arteries, which is known as atherosclerosis. Plaque can narrow and harden the arteries, which reduces blood flow and potentially leads to a stroke.
  • Anxiety can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or a lack of exercise. These lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of conditions like high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, all of which can increase the risk of stroke.

Other Risk Factors For Stroke

There are many risk factors for stroke other than anxiety. To reduce our risk of stroke, we must be aware of the additional risk factors stated below:

  • High Blood Pressure: It is also known as Hypertension. High blood pressure is the biggest cause of stroke. 
  • Smoking: As the nicotine raises your blood pressure so smoking is also the cause of stroke. Cigarette smoke thickens one’s blood and causes it to clot. Blood thickening and clotting increase the risk of stroke.
  • Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes are likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure. The risk of stroke is increased by both high blood pressure and weight gain. As diabetes damages one’s blood vessels, the chances of strokes become higher.
  • Weight and Exercise: If you are overweight, and lack exercise in your daily routine, then your chances of stroke increase. 
  • Medication: A number of medications have been shown to raise the risk of stroke. Blood-thinning medications, which physicians recommend to avoid blood clots, increase the risk of stroke by causing bleeding. 
  • Age: A study shows that over 70% of strokes occur above the age of 65. As you grow older, your chances of stroke increase. Men have higher rates of stroke at younger ages, while women are more prone to stroke at older ages.

Difference Between a Mini Stroke and Anxiety

While reading about the topic, can anxiety cause a stroke? There is also the term mini-stroke. Let’s look at this in detail and discuss the difference between anxiety and mini-strokes.

Can anxiety cause a stroke

Ways to Manage Anxiety 

Now that you know that anxiety can be a risk factor for stroke so in order to reduce the risk, you need to manage your anxiety by following these tips: 

Lifestyle Changes

  • Avoid junk food and try to have a balanced and healthier diet. 
  • Engage in physical activity such as walking, and running exercises and prioritize regular sleep routine.
  • Deep breathing exercises, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga can help to calm your mind and body.
  • Being mindful of the present moment without judgment can help you disconnect from anxious thoughts and reduce stress.
  • Try to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, as these substances can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
  • Engaging in activities you enjoy, such as listening to music, reading, gardening, cooking, or crafting, can boost your mood, relax your mind, and provide a break from stress.
  • Create meaningful relationships with friends and family. Share your concerns during stressful times with those close to you.

Therapy and Medication

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps in identifying negative thought patterns and changing them, which contributes to anxiety.
  • Exposure Therapy is about exposing yourself to anxiety-provoking situations in a safe and controlled environment under guidance. It helps reduce fear and anxiety regarding the situation.
  • Anti-anxiety medications can be helpful in managing anxiety symptoms. It’s important to discuss medication with a healthcare professional.

Transform Your Life with These Reads

  1. Heal Yourself from Anxiety, Depression, and Stress by Veronica Cullen: Dive into this transformative guide and discover the tools you need to break free from mental health struggles and live a happier, healthier life.
  1. Healing and Happiness After Stroke: How to Get Back Up After Life Turned Upside-Down: It offers practical advice and uplifting stories to inspire and guide stroke survivors on their journey to recovery. Discover joy and control after life’s biggest obstacles by reading this inspiring book.
  1. Change Your Diet, Change Your Mind: It offers a powerful plan to boost mood, reduce anxiety, and protect your memory for life. Discover how simple dietary changes can transform your mental health and well-being.
  1. The Post Stroke Anxiety Tool Kit: Discover the ultimate guide to managing post-stroke anxiety with this 3-month journal, designed to help you track and understand your feelings. Gain insights and find peace through structured reflection and practical strategies.
  1. “Hardcore Self Help: F**k Anxiety” is a no-nonsense guide that cuts through the fluff, offering real, relatable advice to conquer anxiety. Dive into this book for straightforward tips and humor that make managing anxiety feel achievable and empowering.


If you have any mental health condition like anxiety or stress and you are concerned about it manifesting into any physical health problem, making you wonder, ‘Can anxiety cause a stroke?’ then you might have found the answer in this blog post. 

It sheds light on the relationship between anxiety and stroke and other risk factors that exacerbate the risk of stroke. Mental health is an important issue and it should not be taken lightly as it can increase the chances of other physical diseases.

If you are going through anxiety or you suspect someone around you is going through anxiety or any other mental health problems, then help them out by making them aware of how risky it could be if they don’t pay attention to it. 


  1. Am I having a stroke or is it anxiety?

Differentiating between a stroke and anxiety is difficult but some differences make it easier to know when you are encountering anxiety or a stroke. You can find out if you are having a stroke or anxiety by looking at their symptoms. Symptoms of stroke include extreme weakness or sickness, drooping of the face from one side, a severe headache, and difficulty speaking, while anxiety symptoms include difficulty breathing, an increased heart rate, sweaty chills, and intense worry and fear.

  1. Can a stroke cause anxiety?

Reading about can anxiety cause a stroke?, there also comes the reverse scenario can a stroke cause anxiety?

 Yes, a stroke can cause anxiety as a physical or psychological response to the event. A stroke can damage the areas of the brain that are responsible for emotional regulation, leading to anxiety and panic attacks. Psychologically, the experience of a stroke can be traumatic, which can cause feelings of fear, uncertainty, and vulnerability, which can contribute to anxiety.

  1. Can anxiety cause a stroke or heart attack?

Anxiety increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, but it is not a direct cause of these conditions. Anxiety can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. 

  1. What are the 5 warning signs of a mini-stroke?

The 5 signs that make it easier for mini-stroke to get identified are:

  1. Sudden weakness on one side such as difficulty in lifting an arm or leg, and facial drooping on one side.
  2. Difficulty forming words and understanding speech can be noticeable.
  3. Blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision in one eye may occur.
  4. The person may feel dizzy and struggle to maintain balance.
  5. A sudden, intense headache that feels different from any previous headaches.
  1. How long does your body warn you before a stroke?

The warning signs of a stroke, especially a mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), can occur anywhere from minutes to days before a full stroke. In many cases, stroke symptoms appear suddenly and without warning. Some studies suggest that there can be subtle warning signs days to weeks before a stroke, such as transient weakness, headaches, or minor speech difficulties.