THURSDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Depressed women may be at greater risk for stroke, new research suggests.
"We know that stroke can increase risk of depression, but depression itself may increase risk of future stroke," said study author An Pan, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
"Depression is associated with hormonal changes in the body and affects chemicals in the brain, and we know that depression could be a marker for vascular disease," he said. "Depression is also associated with obesity, diabetes and hypertension, and people with depression are more likely to smoke and be physically inactive and not take their medication regularly."
Women with a history of depression were 29 percent more likely to have a stroke during six years of follow-up, and this finding held even when researchers controlled for other factors known to increase stroke risk. What's more, women who took antidepressants had a 39 percent increased risk of stroke.
The study was published online Aug. 11 in the journal Stroke.
The jury is out in terms of the role that antidepressants have in upping stroke risk, Pan said. "We don't know whether medications increase risk of stroke or if medicine is a marker for severity of depression."
Depressed women were more likely to be single, smoke and be less physically active than their non-depressed counterparts, the study showed. They were also slightly younger, had a higher body mass index and more coexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Pan and colleagues followed 80,574 women aged 54 to 79 who took part in the Nurses' Health Study from 2000 to 2006 and had no prior history of stroke. Depression was assessed via a standardized tool measuring symptoms, antidepressant prescriptions, and/or a diagnosis of depression from a doctor. Overall, 22 percent of wom
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