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August 29, 2009

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Little hope increases possibility of strokes

FOR women, feelings of hopelessness are not just unfortunate, they are a stroke risk, American researchers said on Thursday.

They said otherwise healthy women who chronically feel hopeless are more likely to have a buildup of plaque in their neck arteries that can trigger a stroke.

"These findings suggest that women who experience feelings of hopelessness may have greater risk for future heart disease and stroke," said Susan Everson-Rose of the University of Minnesota Medical School, whose study appears in the journal Stroke.

Many studies have linked depression with heart disease, and recent studies have suggested optimism may protect women from heart disease.

Everson-Rose's study is the first to show that hopelessness may directly affect a healthy woman's risk of stroke.

Researchers looked at 559 women with an average age of 50 who had no clinical signs of heart disease.

To measure hopelessness, they asked questions about the future and personal goals. They also measured symptoms of depression using a 20-item assessment scale.

"What we found is, those women who reported feeling hopeless about the future or their personal goals had more thickening in the neck arteries -- more atherosclerosis -- which is a predictor of stroke and subsequent heart attack," Everson-Rose said.

Everson-Rose said the team looked specifically for differences between women who were hopeless and those who were depressed -- a disorder that affects things like sleep, appetite and overall mood.

"What we find is this thickening in the neck arteries is a specific feature to hopelessness," she said.


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