Can Being Unemployed Increase Your Risk for Stroke?

Being unemployed can be a major source of stress, but can losing your job actually put you at an increased risk for stroke? Andrew Russman, D.O., discusses the results of a recent study that looks at increased stress and risk for stroke.

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CLEVELAND – Being unemployed can be a major source of stress, but can losing a job actually put a person at an increased risk for stroke?

According to a recent study, the answer is yes.

Researchers studied a group of more than 40,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 59 over the course of two decades through varying employment statuses.

They found that experiencing just one incidence of unemployment was associated with higher risks of stroke in comparison with those who remained employed. Their results indicate that just one instance of job loss was more likely to result in an increase in smoking, alcohol use, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Andrew Russman, D.O., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said that lifestyle changes that are often brought on by stress can certainly impact a person’s risk for stroke.

“People who are unemployed are under an increased amount of stress and stress can change our lifestyle behaviors, such as increasing our alcohol use and can also lead to difficulty controlling our high blood pressure,” said Dr. Russman. “Both of these things result in significant increases in our risk of stroke.”

Dr. Russman said unemployment can result in certain stresses that might not exist while we’re employed, making us more likely to experience a change in health habits – whether it’s eating less healthy or even skipping medications in an effort to save money.

He said that if losing a job also results in losing health insurance coverage, this can play a critical role in maintaining health.

“This gap in health insurance coverage could actually result in a decline in their health, because they’re not as good about getting or taking their medications, and those medications for things like high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes are important for helping to control their risk of having a stroke,” said Dr. Russman.

Dr. Russman said those who might anticipate a job loss or a change in income need to make their health a priority. He recommends talking to a doctor about what resources might be available, in order to continue to take important medications, as many pharmacies offer medication discount programs.

Complete results of the study can be found in the journal Stroke.

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