Depression linked to stroke in middle-aged women
In the largest study of its kind, researchers say that younger middle-aged women who are depressed are twice as likely to experience stroke than those women who are not. The findings were published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers tracked more than 10,000 women ages 47-52 over a 12-year period and discovered that women with depression were 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke than their non-depressed counterparts.
Even after refining the results to eliminate a number of stroke risk factors, the results weren’t much better with depressed women still 1.9 times more likely to experience stroke.
“When treating women, doctors need to recognize the serious nature of poor mental health and what effects it can have in the long term,” said study leader Caroline Jackson, Ph.D., of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland in Australia in a news release. “Current guidelines for stroke prevention tend to overlook the potential role of depression.”
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability, according to the National Stroke Association (NSA). Nearly 80 percent of strokes are preventable, the NSA says.
A stroke, is sometimes referred to as a “brain attack” and happens when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body or a when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain, according to the NSA. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.
Depression after having a stroke is unfortunately common as well, says the NSA.
Researchers aren’t sure why the link between depression and stroke exists but speculate that inflammation and problems with the body’s immune system may have an adverse effect on blood vessels.
Study leaders hope the new findings result in better methods of prevention of stroke among this group of women.
“We may need more targeted approaches to prevent and treat depression among younger women, because it could have a much stronger impact on stroke for them now rather than later in life,” Jackson said.
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