Anxiety Leading to Brain Strokes

Updated on September 4, 2022

When you’re anxious, your brain doesn’t always know how to react. 

It does its best to help you in these situations, using a variety of Defense mechanisms to protect you from danger and increase your chances of survival. 

However, when these reactions occur too frequently or intensely, they can severely affect your physical health. Increased stress hormones like cortisol wreak havoc on the body in the following ways: 

  • Weakening the immune system
  • Increasing blood pressure 
  • Increasing blood sugar levels
  • Inflammation

If this response is not managed effectively by the brain and nervous system, it can lead to a disruption in normal blood flow that can be dangerous if left untreated. 

Fortunately, with early detection and treatment, most people who experience anxiety-induced strokes make a full recovery. 

How Does Stress Increase Your Chances Of A Stroke?

Stress is the most common trigger for an anxiety-induced stroke. 

When your body is under constant stress, it will increase blood flow to your muscles, major organs, and bones to help you deal with whatever is causing the stress. 

In the process, blood flow to the blood vessels in the brain is reduced, raising the risk of a stroke. 

This is because, to increase blood flow to other body parts, the brain has to divert blood from other areas — including the brain. 

When blood flow to the brain is disrupted, it can cause a blood clot (or a stroke) that blocks blood flow to the brain.

How Does A Stroke Happen?

As mentioned before, a stroke occurs when a blockage causes a lack of blood flow to the brain in one of the arteries leading to the brain. 

Depending on where that blockage occurs, the symptoms will vary. In some cases, the backup will happen in the brain itself, leading to an intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) type of stroke. 

While in other cases, a blockage will occur in the blood vessels leading to the brain, leading to a kind of stroke called cerebral ischemia.

What Exactly Happens During Stress?

Stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which is helpful in the short term but can pose a problem if your body is under constant high-stress levels. 

Cortisol breaks down proteins in your body, including collagen. When this happens, a weak part of your blood vessels can break down and cause a blood clot. 

This can block blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke. As an added complication, cortisol also increases blood sugar levels and interferes with how your body uses insulin, making it more likely to develop diabetes. 

This can further increase your risk of a stroke because diabetes increases your risk of blood clots.

How To Find Out If You Are Stressed?

Your first clue that you may be experiencing too much stress is if you are experiencing a noticeable change in your mood. 

When stressed out, your body releases cortisol and other hormones that can disrupt your natural sleep and stress patterns. 

Your best bet is to keep track of your mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns for a few weeks to get a better idea of how your body reacts when you’re stressed. 

By keeping a journal, you can gauge how often you’re worrying, how many hours of sleep you’re getting each night, and how your energy levels fluctuate throughout the day. 

If you notice a significant change in your usual patterns, then you may be experiencing an unhealthy amount of stress.

How Do You Manage The Effects Of Stress?

As you can see, there is a tenuous but significant link between stress and strokes. 

Stress for a few days won’t increase your risk of stroke. 

However, chronically unmanaged and untreated stress can raise your risk of having a crippling and possibly fatal stroke. 

The following also increases your risk of stroke:

  • Smoking 
  • High cholesterol 
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Other risk factors

You can take several steps to lower your risk of stroke. The most crucial is receiving medical advice and treatment for conditions that increase the risk of stroke. 

Even though anxiety and stress might not be utterly eradicable from your life, you can manage them to a great extent. 

To accomplish this, try to:

  • Get plenty of exercises and stay away from unhealthy eating.
  • Create deep connections with your friends and family.
  • Saying no to requests that make you anxious is a skill you should acquire.
  • Avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, or smoking as a coping mechanism for ongoing stress.
  • In times of stress, discuss your worries with close friends.
  • If it makes you more stressed, try to limit your news viewing.
  • Take pleasure in life’s little pleasures.
  • Spend time engaging in interests and other enjoyable pursuits.
  • Engage in practices like yoga and meditation.
  • Look for assistance and resources in your neighborhood.

If stress, worry, fear, frustration, or anxiety overwhelms you, consult a physician or mental health expert.


Anxiety impacts millions of people yearly, and many don’t even realize it. When left untreated, stress can lead to severe physical and mental health problems. 

Anxiety can cause your body to release a hormone called cortisol, leading to a stroke. Blood vessels can break down and block blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke. 

If you’re experiencing anxiety, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your stress level and prevent a stroke.

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