Depression As A Cause Of Stroke

Middle-aged men are over three times more likely to suffer a fatal stroke if they suffer from depression, according to latest research published in `Stroke`.

The results are taken from an on-going study, funded by The Stroke Association, of 2,124 men aged between 49-64 years old, living in Caerphilly, South Wales. The men were studied for over 14 years after an initial medical check up and a history of mood, smoking, blood pressure levels and other risk factors were collected.

During the follow-up, 137 strokes occurred, including 17 fatal strokes. In general, the men who suffered strokes were older, heavier and had higher blood pressure then those who didn`t suffer a stroke. Those who suffered a stroke were also more likely to be current smokers.

The psychological profile of the men also showed that the stroke sufferers were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression. More importantly, those with a history of psychological distress were three times more likely to risk a fatal stroke. It was also noted that as depression and anxiety increased, the risk of fatal stroke increased. The study also suggested an association between depression and changes in the nervous system which regulates the contraction of blood vessels.

“There is probably a complicated inter-relationship between psychological distress and other risk factors,” says Professor Shah Ebrahim, stroke epidemiology specialist at Bristol University`s Department of Social Medicine, who is involved in the study. “People with depression may be less likely to exercise, maintain a healthy lifestyle and adhere to medical therapy such as taking blood pressure lowering drugs – all things which can help to reduce the risk of a stroke.”

“We already have a lot of information and emphasis on the risk of factors for stroke,” says Eoin Redahan of The Stroke Association. “We now need to look seriously at the role of depression in the equation and doctors and psychiatrists should be aware of this connection.”

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