People with an impulse control disorder may be at greater risk of having a stroke, especially if they have a history of anger or aggression, according to a new study that found that people with an impulse control disorder are more likely to suffer a stroke when exposed to high blood pressure, other risk factors, high body mass index, shortness of breath and high blood sugar.
Over the past 15 years, about 8.5 million Americans have suffered a stroke, and most were due to heart disease, the American Heart Association says. Stroke often happens after a heart attack, the most common reason for strokes, because the heart muscle is hit by blood clots.
The increase in stroke is associated with increasing obesity, sedentary lifestyles and cardiovascular disease, according to the American Stroke Association.
The report, “Adverse events related to unintentional impulse control disorder and vascular risk factors in North American participants,” has been accepted for publication in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
In the U.S., about 8.2 percent of adults have an impulse control disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Many people in need of help have difficulty understanding and managing impulses.
The study followed 21,488 participants in an unrelated, long-term study of eating disorders for an average of 8.7 years. Most participants were men between the ages of 25 and 55. Many participated in health risk assessments. Those who reported that they had a pattern of excessive impulse control disorder were less likely to have a stroke, but the results were not robust enough to show that this risk factor alone was a strong enough predictor of stroke.
The study did identify two types of impulse control disorder. Patients who said they had an impulse control disorder believed they were powerless over their desires or impulses and failed to use effective consequences, according to the report. While people with impulse control disorder also had unhealthy habits, such as smoking, using drugs and drinking alcohol, the patients’ risk factors were not worse than other patients.
Dr. Andrew Wilkins, an author of the report, said the results were likely not the result of chance or the person’s impulsiveness or personal habits.
The impulse control disorder was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of having a stroke among those who had a BMI of 30 and above. But as with all high-risk factors, it was most of the risk for patients with an impulse control disorder to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The highest stroke risk was associated with people who had diabetes, heart disease, shortness of breath and high blood sugar.
The study did not differentiate between individuals with a history of mental illness and those who didn’t have a mental illness. About 6.8 percent of all patients in the study reported having an impulse control disorder.
The fear of a stroke may influence patients to stop exercising, according to some studies. One report said there was a link between having diabetes and exercise and quitting exercise, and that people who had lost their vision or were drinking heavily, called opiate use disorder, also were more likely to have a stroke if they did not work out.
“Some doctors find that exercise is helpful,” said Wilkins, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, which is part of the study. “It’s important to make that helpful message while working with patients to avoid their health risks.”