Depression and Stroke Go Hand In Hand

Another Reason Not to Ignore the “Blues”

Depression significantly increases deadly stroke risk, and antidepressants may be partly to blame.

depression and stroke According to a comprehensive study published in September in the Journal of the American Medical Association, depression significantly increases your risks of having a stroke. What’s more, it also raises your risks of dying from a stroke.

For the new study, researchers reviewed 30 previously conducted studies of nearly 320,000 patients. They found that depression was associated with a 45% increased risk for stroke, and a 55% increased risk for dying from a stroke.

Science Daily reported:

“Stroke is a leading cause of death and permanent disability,” study author Dr. An Pan, professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a written statement. “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.”

The authors of the study aren’t exactly sure how depression and stroke are related or how depression spikes stroke risk. They speculate that it might be related to inflammation, since depression causes inflammation of both the nervous and immune systems.

Additionally, researchers note that depression is already known to raise the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure — both of which are conditions that also increase stroke risk.

It’s also possible that health-harming habits associated with depression are at least in part to blame for upping stroke risk — such as smoking, unhealthy eating, and low activity levels.

Are Antidepressants to Blame?

The study authors even hypothesize that antidepressant medications may elevate risk of stroke due to the way they change chemical pathways in the brain.

The researchers caution against leaping to conclusions, and yet the truth is that a study last year (also published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) concluded that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos for most depressed patients.

For those interested in alternatives to conventional antidepressant drugs, many have been studied extensively, including St. John’s Wort, rhodiola, and light therapy.

Ignoring depression is never a good idea, and this latest study on depression and stroke underscores that fact. Depression affects nearly 19 million Americans. Stroke, on the other hand, is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. each year, killing almost 144,000 of the 795,000 stroke victims yearly.

Your risk of having a stroke doubles each decade after age 55, so we already know that age is a significant stroke risk factor. Now, we know that depression is, too.