Long-term depression can increase stroke risk
Long-term depression significantly increases the risk for stroke, even after a patient’s depression symptoms have subsided, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Compared to people who did not experience depressive symptoms, those showing signs of depression were 66 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to the study. People who reported signs of depression in two consecutive check-ins were twice as likely as those without symptoms to have a stroke.
Responses were analyzed from more than 16,000 adults 50 years old and older about their depression symptoms, stroke history and stroke risk factors. Feedback from patients was taken every two years over the course of 12 years.
The reports found that nearly 1,200 of those adults had a stroke during that period.
“Depression affects a patient’s whole body,” says Dr. Shastri Swaminathan, psychiatrist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “It can cause high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular issues, which are linked to stroke risk. In addition, depression can trigger overeating and reduce a person’s motivation to exercise, both of which can increase your risk for stroke and other health problems.”
However, the study also showed that short-term depression seemed to have less of an impact on stroke risk.
“Looking at how changes in depressive symptoms over time may be associated with stroke allows us to see if the risk of stroke increases after elevated depressive symptoms start or if risk goes away when depressive symptoms do,” Paola Gilsanz, Sc.D., the study’s lead author, said in a news release. “We were surprised that changes in depressive symptoms seem to take more than two years to protect against or elevate stroke risk.”
Depression is often very treatable, and if you’re experiencing symptoms, you should see your doctor.
“Remember that depression is a health condition, just like high blood pressure or diabetes, and treatment can help,” says Dr. Swaminathan. “Most people experience symptom relief with medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two.”
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