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Coffee and sex can trigger strokes

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SYDNEY: Some of the things we enjoy doing most, such as drinking coffee and having sex, may increase the risk of stroke, a new Dutch study has found.

According to the report published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, there are eight main triggers that increase the risk of intracranial aneurysm, which is a swelling of an artery in the brain. If the swollen artery ruptures it can cause a subarachnoid hemorrhage and lead to a stroke.

These triggers include drinking coffee and cola, vigorous physical exercise, nose blowing, sexual intercourse, straining to defecate, being startled and getting angry.

“We think our findings are important, because firstly they offer a possibility to give advice to patients with an unruptured aneurysm,” said lead author Monique Vlak, neurologist at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, the Netherlands. “Before we had [no advice] we could give them if treating the aneurysm itself was not an option.”

Finding the triggers

Previous research indicates that intracranial aneurysm ruptures are associated with ‘chronic risk factors’ such as age, hypertension, smoking and being female. About 2% of the population have an intracranial aneurysm, but ruptures are infrequent.

While few people experience symptoms before a rupture, such as severe headaches, vomiting and vision problems, the increased use of neuroimaging techniques means more discreet aneurysms are being detected.

But short-term triggers have not been identified in past studies, making it difficult for neurologists to design prevention strategies for patients with intracranial aneurysms.

Coffee, sex and exercise

To identify these triggers and their level of risk, 250 patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage completed a questionnaire about their exposure to a list of 30 different triggers. The patients were also required to record the intensity and frequency of their exposure to these triggers before they suffered the hemorrhage.

Vlak and her team then assessed the relative risk of rupture using a case-crossover design, which measures whether an event was triggered by something that occurred shortly before it.

Of the 30 potential trigger factors, coffee consumption, strenuous exercise and nose blowing were the top three risk factors that appeared to trigger a stroke. Having sex also rated close to these top three factors.

“All of the triggers induce a sudden and short increase in blood pressure, which seems a possible common cause for aneurysmal rupture,” said Vlak. “With our investigation we proved that these factors are in fact trigger factors and not a coincidence.”

Penelope McNulty, neurologist from Neuroscience Research Australia, says that strokes caused by intracranial aneurysm rupture can occur at any age and without warning. But the researcher says that patients suffering from this type of stroke can make progress using an unconventional type of therapy.

“It was often thought that patients with this kind of stroke do not recover as well as those whose stroke was caused by a blockage in a blood vessel of the brain” said McNulty.

“But we have shown this is not the case. Even many years after an aneurysm rupture, patients can benefit from Wii-based movement therapy, recovering functional use of their arm and hand via an intensive two-week program.”

Via Coffee and sex can trigger strokes

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Written by Nokgiir

May 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm

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