Depression Tied to Higher Risk for Stroke

Study found the mental health condition is linked to a 55% raised risk for fatal brain attack

TUESDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- People who are depressed are at greater risk for suffering a stroke, a new study indicates.

Harvard researchers pointed out that the findings could have a significant impact on public health since stroke is a leading cause of death and permanent disability.

Researchers analyzed 28 previous studies, which involved a total of almost 318,000 people and 8,478 stroke cases. The investigators found that depression was associated with a 45 percent increased risk for stroke and a 55 percent raised risk for fatal stroke.

The study, published in the Sept. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, also revealed that depression was linked to a 25 percent higher risk for ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage within a vessel supplying blood to the brain.

The researchers offered a number of explanations for the link between depression and stroke, including:

  • Having neuroendocrine (nervous and endocrine) and immune systems with inflammation.
  • Having poor health habits, such as smoking, being sedentary, not taking medication or eating an unhealthy diet.
  • Having other medical conditions that are also risk factors for stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.

"In conclusion, this meta-analysis provides strong evidence that depression is a significant risk factor for stroke. Given the high prevalence and incidence of depression and stroke in the general population, the observed association between depression and stroke has clinical and public health importance," study author An Pan, of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues explained in a news release from the journal.

The study authors noted that more studies are needed to explore why depression increases the risk for stroke.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on risk factors for stroke.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Sept. 20, 2011

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