FRIDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- People who develop depression after surviving a stroke may die sooner than those without the mental health disorder, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that of more than 10,000 Americans followed for two decades, those who developed depression after suffering a stroke were about three times more likely to die of any cause during the study period, versus people without either condition.
Stroke survivors without depression also faced a heightened death risk, but it was less pronounced: They were 80 percent more likely to die during the study period than people with no history of stroke or depression, the investigators found.
The findings are being released by the American Academy of Neurology, ahead of its annual meeting in San Diego in March. A similar link has been seen for heart attack survivors with depression, the study authors noted in an academy news release.
The reasons for the findings are not completely clear. The researchers were able to account for some factors, such as age, race and income. But they didn't have information on the severity of people's strokes, and whether they suffered any disabilities afterward, said lead researcher Dr. Amytis Towfighi, chair of neurology at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, Calif.
That's important because more severe strokes may leave people more vulnerable to depression.
It's also possible, though, that depression could have some direct effect on long-term survival after a stroke, according to Towfighi.
"There are both behavioral and physiological reasons postulated," she said.
On the behavior side, depression might hinder people from taking their medications properly, eating right or getting exercise. On the biological side, some researchers suspect that depression affects the functioning of blood cells involved in clot formation; bl
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