Depression Creates Higher Stroke Risk for Women

Women who suffer from depression may have a higher risk of stroke.

New research reported in the journal Stroke shows that women with a history of depression had a 29 percent increased risk of stroke. Those who took anti-depressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, had a 39 percent increased risk.

However, researchers said patients should not stop taking their medication.

Anti-depressant medication is an indicator for severe depression, said Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, the study’s senior author in a news release from the American Heart Association.

“I don’t think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk,” she said. “This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke.”

Depression appears to be linked to an increased risk of stroke for several other reasons. Unlike women with no history of depression, depressed women are more likely to smoke and be less physically active. They also had a higher Body Mass Index and other conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

“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,” said Rexrode, associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “All these factors could contribute to increased risk.”

The study analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study from 2000 to 2006. Researchers followed more than 80,000 women between the ages of 54 and 79.

The National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Blood, Lung Institute funded the study.

Source: American Heart Association, Stroke

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