Study: Surprises that make you jump may be common triggers of strokes

Saturday, February 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Ringing doorbells and other jolts that make people jump appear to be powerful and surprisingly common triggers of strokes, a study concluded.

Researchers found that sudden movements, usually ones caused by being startled, increase the risk of stroke by 33 times over the usual level.

Israeli researchers who looked for possible stroke triggers in 150 victims found that 22 percent of them had sudden movements just before their strokes.

Other researchers have identified a variety of triggers for heart attacks _ including simply climbing out of bed in the morning _ but the latest study is among the first to search for the events that start strokes.

Dr. Nathan Bornstein noted that many people live with the underlying causes of strokes, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, for years. Then, for no obvious reason, a blood clot lodges in the brain, triggering a stroke.

``We are looking for the triggers,'' he said. ``What happened around this moment when the artery is blocked by a clot?''

Bornstein presented the results of the study, conducted at Tel Aviv University, at the annual meeting of the American Stroke Association, which concluded Saturday in San Antonio.

The second most common trigger, after sudden movement, was what the researchers called negative emotions. These included feeling distressed, upset, guilty, scared, hostile, irritable, ashamed, nervous, jittery or afraid. These increased the risk 10-fold and preceded 13 percent of strokes.

Bornstein said that if confirmed, the finding suggests at least some factors that people at high risk of stroke might be warned to control.

``We can tell people they have to be careful about exposure to outrageous anger,'' said Bornstein. ``It's easy to say, but it's more difficult to apply.''

Dr. Philip Gorelick, director of stroke research at Chicago's Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, said that while individual episodes of anger or jumping may trigger strokes, the repeated effects of these kinds of stress on the arteries over the years might be the real hazard.

``It's the accumulation of stress that is important,'' he said, ``not simply what happens one day.''