Women With Depression Have Increased Risk of Stroke

According to a new report, depressed women may be at a higher risk for stroke or cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Scientists discovered that a history of depression has been linked to a 29% increased risk of stroke even after considering other stroke risk factors.

Another finding from this study is that women who use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) anti-depressant medications (such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa) face a 39% increased risk of stroke.

“I don’t think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk. This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke,” said Kathryn Rexrode, M.D., the study’s senior author.

The study followed 80,574 women aged between 54 and 79 who had no prior history of stroke. These women were assessed for depressive symptoms on many occasions with a Mental Health Index.

The researchers discovered that 22% of the women were depressed at the beginning of the study and over the next six years, 1,033 stroke cases were documented. Key differences were discovered by comparing women with depression to those without a history of depression.

Overall, depressed women were found to be slightly younger, more likely to be single, more likely to be smokers, have a higher body mass index, and these women were less physically active. Furthermore, they were found to have more coexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Rexrode stated, “Depression can prevent individuals from controlling other medical problems such as diabetes and hypertension, from taking medications regularly or pursuing other healthy lifestyle measures such as exercise. All these factors could contribute to increased risk.

“Regardless of the mechanism, recognising that depressed individuals may be at a higher risk of stroke may help the physician focus on not only treating the depression, but treating stroke risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol as well as addressing lifestyle behaviours such as smoking and exercise.”

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