University of Minnesota LogoIt is often seen that our emotional well-being affects the physical well-being too. So it is of no surprise to see that feelings of hopelessness seemed to be linked with increased thickening of neck arteries in healthy, middle-aged women. According to two unrelated studies, it was seen that apathy among stroke survivors seems to be common and may hinder recovery.

As per a latest study from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis experts claimed that hopelessness which is a feeling of uselessness combined with negative thinking may affect arteries independent of clinical depression. It could also affect other known cardiovascular threat issues before women develop clinically relevant cardiovascular disease.

This study found that rising hopelessness and increasing carotid artery intimal-medical thickness (IMT) apparently appear to have a consistent, progressive and linear connection between them. The overall distinction in arterial thickening between women with higher versus lower hopelessness score which is apparently 0.02mm may be equal to about one year of thickening. Compared to those people in the lowest group, people with the highest hopelessness scores had an average of 0.06mm greater thickening. According to the authors, it is supposed to be a ‘potentially clinically significant’ difference. Even after adjusting for any influence of race, age, income, cardiovascular threat issues and depression, the correlation remained.

Susan A. Everson-Rose, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior author of the study, associate director of the Program in Health Disparities Research and associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis commented “Previous studies have shown that hopelessness is associated with cardiovascular disease outcomes in men and also in women with documented heart disease. However, this is the first study to suggest that hopelessness may be related to subclinical cardiovascular disease in women without clinical symptoms of heart disease and who are generally healthy. These findings suggest that women who experience feelings of hopelessness may have greater risk for future heart disease and stroke. In fact, our data indicate that hopelessness may be uniquely related to cardiovascular disease risk. We did not see similar relations when looking at global depressive symptoms.”

To inspect the connection of hopelessness and depressive symptoms with carotid IMT, an early marker of atherosclerosis, data from Chicago and Pittsburgh sites of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) were collected by the experts. Approximately 559 women were examined. Their average age was about 50. Whites constituted to about 62 percent and about 38 percent of the participants were African American.

Hopelessness was supposedly measured with a two-item questionnaire evaluating expectancies regarding future and personal goals. The 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale supposedly measured depressive symptoms. The ultrasound of the carotid arteries supposedly assessed IMT.

Everson-Rose commented “The findings we observed are based on cross-sectional data — a snapshot in time — so we look forward to examining the longitudinal relations between hopelessness and heart disease risk in women.”

When it comes to apathy, researchers at McGill University in Montreal claimed that half of the stroke patients experience apathy and even a minor apathy may prove to be a hindrance to recovery. Physical function, participation, health perception and overall physical health is apparently lower on those who experience ‘minor’, ‘high’, ‘worsening’ or ‘improving apathy’ as opposed to those survivors with ‘low apathy’

Nancy E. Mayo, Ph.D., lead author of the study and the James McGill Professor in the Department of Medicine mentioned “Apathy is generally understudied in stroke patients, but we found that even relatively low levels can seriously impede recovery.”

Apathy is a general lack of emotion, interest or concern. While depression and apathy are also associated, they are not synonymous. Statements such as the stroke survivor ‘waits for someone to do things he/she can do for self’ or the survivor ‘just sits and watches’ were used by family members who used to rate the survivor’s interest in various activities. To rate apathy levels among stroke survivors, this study claimed to be the first to use family members.

About 408 family caregivers received an apathy questionnaire every 4 months. 3 percent supposedly maintained high level of apathy and 33 percent maintained minor apathy throughout the 1st year. Improving apathy was seen in about 7 percent and worsening apathy was seen in about 7 percent during the year. Higher apathy is apparently predicted from poor cognitive status, very low functional status and a greater number of co-existing conditions.

Mayo commented that a better understanding of apathy was required in post-stroke patients because it appears to be an important, yet largely overlooked aspect of their recovery.

Experts suggest that hopelessness and apathy may prove to be extremely fatal to the human body. These findings have been reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.