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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Can Stress Cause a Stroke? Uncovering the Connection

Can Stress Cause a Stroke? Uncovering the Connection

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
4 min read 1141 Views 0 Comments
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People in a persistent state of stress are more likely to have a stroke. This can be scary to think about, but why are these two factors linked? We explain how stress can trigger a stroke and offer some coping strategies that can improve your mental health.

Can stress cause a stroke

Stress triggers both physical and psychological symptoms.

One person might have chronic migraines, while another might have high blood pressure. It depends on your stress level and how you react emotionally. 

Unfortunately, everyone has stress hormones, and it’s these hormones that can increase your risk of stroke. Your body goes through so much during stressful events. Of course, strokes aren’t exactly a common occurrence with stress, but it’s important to understand the connection. 

Interested in learning more? Read on to discover the negative effects of stress.

Can Stress Cause a Stroke?

Yes, chronic stress is a factor that increases the likelihood of strokes. Being stressed also causes physical changes in your body. These include high blood pressure, brain inflammation, anxiety attacks, weakened immune responses, and high cholesterol.

Stress isn’t something you can always avoid in your daily routine. Facing new work challenges or going through tough family situations can do mental and physical damage. However, not lowering your stress over time could put more tension on your brain and cardiovascular system. 

The brain is complex and requires a consistent source of energy. Once you feel stressed, normal processes in your body change and try to adapt. This includes artery contraction, as high blood pressure spikes decrease the amount of blood reaching important organs. 

You should reduce chronic stress before it affects your health. Some other problems include a higher risk of developing heart disease, chest pain, poor digestion, and insomnia. There are studies that show how stress-related insomnia can raise the stroke risk in young people. 

How Can Stress Cause a Stroke?

Chronic stress increases the amount of inflammation in your body. This swelling restricts blood vessels and slows down blood flow to the brain. Raised blood pressure also weakens your artery walls and makes it easier for blood clots to trigger strokes. 

A stroke occurs when your brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen via blood. Narrow arteries or a blood clot are usually to blame for this medical emergency. The lack of oxygen-rich blood will kill brain cells and lead to muscle weakness, speech difficulties, memory problems, and paralysis. 

Many people have pre-existing health problems that may cause strokes. However, there is another risk factor that contributes to poor brain health. Stress increases cortisol – a hormone that increases your blood pressure, narrows arteries, and thickens blood traveling to the brain. 

People who feel overwhelmed may also develop bad habits. These include smoking, binge eating, and excessive drinking. One study found that smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can damage blood vessels and weaken brain functions. 

What Are the Signs of Chronic Stress?

You’re bound to experience physical, emotional, and behavioral side effects when going through too much stress. The body can’t always regulate cortisol hormones to keep you healthy. This is why it’s important to look out for negative signs that may cause long-term health issues. 

Here are some common signs of chronic stress:

7 Strategies for Coping With Stress

There are several ways you can manage chronic stress. You don’t have to give in to the stress or feel defeated when going through challenging emotional times. Research shows that building healthy habits throughout the day reduces stress levels and improves your mental health. 

Here are 7 coping strategies you can try: 

#1 Incorporate meditation into your life

Some people meditate every morning to feel calm and relaxed. They use deep breathing techniques just to stop emotional tension from rising. Studies suggest that meditation can relieve stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety, and even lower instances of psychosomatic pain

#2 Avoid caffeine and nicotine

Drinking caffeine while stressed may encourage the cortisol hormones to stay around for longer. This is because caffeine is a stimulant that boosts your blood pressure temporarily. You should limit how much you have of this beverage daily until stress levels balance out normally again. 

Nicotine is another substance to be aware of. This chemical increases your heart rate and puts added tension on blood vessels. Smoking nicotine puts you at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, and respiratory infections. 

#3 Try an app 

Certain apps are created to improve your mental well-being. Apps can be great for people who aren’t comfortable with in-person therapy and need something more accessible. 

A study discovered that CBT reduces anxiety and depression symptoms by helping you overcome any negative thoughts, so you can try downloading a mental health app.

#4 Exercise every day

Studies have shown that regular exercise reduces stress levels. You might go for long-distance runs, casual walks, or treadmill jogs that get your heart pumping. Exercise boosts endorphins – hormones that put you in a positive state of mind and reduce physical pain. 

#5 Learn how to say “No”

Forcing yourself to go out could worsen stress and feed your stroke risk. There’s nothing wrong with saying no and staying inside. Sometimes, people need to be alone to manage stress; otherwise, they’ll ignore the emotional pain by following unhealthy daily habits.

#6 Spend more time doing things you enjoy

People who let stress take over are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and certain brain problems. Finding enjoyable things to do throughout the day can instantly combat stress. Consider trying new hobbies like painting, photography, dancing, journaling, or running.

#7 Consider therapy

You can talk to someone about your fears and concerns. Going through challenging moments alone could make chronic stress worse in the long term. Consult with a doctor or medical professional if you would like to start therapy, as they can point you in the right direction.

A Word From a Psychologist

Not managing your stress can lead to a variety of health problems. Some people forget the risk factors associated with high anxiety levels. Your body takes the full brunt of stressful situations, resulting in physical problems such as chest pain, panic attacks, and chronic fatigue.

One noticeable effect is your blood pressure and how it affects your brain. Restricted blood vessels cannot efficiently pump energy to your brain. Think about how your body is constantly overworking just to reduce cortisol hormones and manage important organ functions.

To lower the stroke risk, aim to reduce your stress as soon as possible. Go for morning walks or create new habits that you enjoy throughout the week. Letting this stress take over will increase the risk of brain damage and ruin your chances of living a satisfying and fulfilling life.


Being stressed for a long time can increase your risk of having a stroke. The high levels of cortisol hormones may trigger a range of negative physical symptoms in your brain. Because of this, you might have more inflammation and restricted arteries that slow down blood flow.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
4 min read 1141 Views 0 Comments

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