Five surprising things that can increase your risk of stroke

From taking anti-depressants to contracting shingles and being unhappy...

doctor view output CT scan.

It's estimated that 150,000 people suffer a stroke in the UK each year, according to the Stroke Association. While lifestyle factors play an important part, you might be surprised to discover some of the things that can increase your risk of stroke.

See also: How to prevent a stroke

See also: Good night's sleep and regular exercise reduces stroke risk

Taking antidepressants

Several studies have found a link between taking antidepressants and increased risk of stroke. One study of postmenopausal women found that those who took antidepressants were 45 per cent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not.

Several other prescription and over-the-counter medications have been linked to a higher risk of stroke. One study found that people who regularly take ibuprofen are three-times more likely to experience a stroke than those taking a placebo pill.

Evidence suggests that taking ibuprofen and other popular painkillers alongside anti-depressants may be a particular concern.

Contracting shingles

There could also be bad news if you've ever had shingles. According to a report published in the journal Stroke, adults who contract the shingles virus (also known as herpes zoster) are 30 per cent more likely to have a stroke than those who've never had the virus. When the shingles infection involves the skin around the eye and the eye itself, the risk is even greater.

Lead researcher Jiunn-Horng Kang from Taipei Medical University Hospital said: "While the mechanism by which shingles increases stroke risk remains unclear, the possibility of developing a stroke after a shingles attack should not be overlooked."

Being single or unhappily married

It's not just physical factors that can increase your risk of stroke. It seems that stress and emotional upset can also play a part.

A major study of more than 10,000 men found that those who were single or unhappily married were 64% more likely to suffer a fatal stroke than their more contented counterparts. That's even after lifestyle factors such as weight and smoking were taken into consideration.

Working long hours

If you've been working long hours recently, you might want to cut back for the sake of your health. According to a major study of more than half a million people, working more than 55 hours a week is linked to a third increased risk of stroke.

Dr Shamim Quadir of The Stroke Association said: "Working long hours can involve sitting for long periods of time, experiencing stress, and leads to less time available to look after yourself.

"We advise that you have regular blood pressure checks. If you're at all concerned about your stroke risk, you should make an appointment with your GP or health professional."

Poor dental hygiene

It may sound unlikely, but studies show a link between poor dental hygiene and your risk of stroke. Experts believe that bacteria found in the gums could find its way into arteries connected to the brain.

Researchers from the University of Louisville School of Medicine found that over a quarter of people who experienced a hemorrhagic stroke had a type of bacteria called streptococcus mutans in their saliva, associated with tooth decay.

Co-author Professor Robert P. Friedland said: "This study shows that oral health is important for brain health. People need to take care of their teeth because it is good for their brain and their heart as well as their teeth.

"The study and related work in our labs have shown that oral bacteria are involved in several kinds of stroke, including brain hemorrhages and strokes that lead to dementia."