Monday, March 3, 2008

Is frustration frying your brain?

When your teenager awakens in the morning with a fully developed case of rage, do you go there with him, or do you smile benignly at the little darling and turn the other cheek? A study out of Maryland* suggests that your response may significantly influence your risk for a stroke.

I'll bet these Baltimore investigators had a field day with this one. They invited 67 "older subjects" down to the lab for an afternoon of testing. The unsuspecting seniors (ages 55 to 81) were subjected to "repeated interruptions of statements and harassment during mental arithmetic tests," while their vital signs were monitored as the aggravation wore on.

The hot reactors in the group raised their blood pressures along with their ire. These simmering subjects were found to have a significantly increased number of unsuspected little infarcts on subsequent MRI brain scanning (see 'The White Matter Matter' below). In other words, their explosive reactions to life's little unpleasantries had taken a permanent toll on the health of their brains.

Lead investigator Dr. Shari Waldstein concluded, "If these findings are replicated, it may be worthwhile to investigate whether treatment of stress-induced blood pressure responses -- in addition to the resting blood pressure -- can reduce cerebrovascular risk."
*Waldstein, SR, et al. Stroke. 2004 Jun;35(6):1294-8.


Mauigirl said...

I've always wondered why "white coat hypertension" has been kind of discounted as important (in other words, people who have high blood pressure at the doctor's office are told to check BP at home and if it's normal they aren't given BP medication). But to me, if someone gets stressed at being at the doctor and their BP goes up, that means it goes up when they are stressed about anything - which can't be good. This proves that point.

Femail doc said...

I agree totally; I never agreed with the "go relax quietly for a half an hour then we'll recheck your blood pressure" school of blood pressure monitoring.

Life is full of stress; we need to deal with blood pressure as it presents in all situations.