The Link Between Depression and Stroke

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One of the world’s leading medical journals has published an important new study. As mood disorder steadily become increasingly common in society, researchers have found that depression makes you more susceptible to stroke — and dying from it.

The stigma of depression is slowly being lifted and, as it is, we might see the true number of people this disease afflicts. The study in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” assessed 30 studies with more than 300,000 patients and found that depression is linked with a significantly increased risk of developing stroke and dying from stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and permanent disability. Depression exists in nearly six percent of men and nearly 10% of women in any given year. The lifetime incidence of depression has been estimated at more than 16% of the general population. Any link between the two has been unclear.

Enter the new study that analyzed the information to date. The researchers conducted a search of the medical literature and identified 28 prospective studies, which included 317,540 participants. In them, nearly 8,500 people developed stroke in a period stretching three decades.

When you look at the overall picture, depression was associated with a 45% increased risk for total stroke. It was also linked to a 55% increased risk for fatal stroke and a 25% increased risk for ischemic stroke.

Why is this the case? The researchers believe that depression may contribute to stroke through a variety of ways. These include depression having an effect on the nervous and endocrine systems, affecting the immune system and inflammation, the poor health behaviors of a depressed person (e.g. smoking, inactivity, poor diet), and being obese. If other issues are at play, such as diabetes and hypertension, this makes the risk of stroke much higher.

In all, this is strong evidence that depression is a major risk factor for stroke. Depressed individuals should be mindful of this and practice healthy lifestyle habits to counteract this risk. Given that stroke and depression are relatively common, this health news has public health importance.