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Depression Raises Women's Stroke Risk

Study Finds Link Between Depression and Stroke, With Depression Boosting Risk 29%

Depression and Stroke: Explaining the Link

Depression has been linked with heart disease risk. However, studies about depression and stroke are fewer and more recent.

Pan cannot explain the link, but speculates about possibilities. Depression may increase inflammation in the body, in turn increasing the risk of stroke. The women with depression, he says, were also more likely to be overweight, to smoke, and to be sedentary. Even though they took those risks into account, they might still contribute.

Depression may be linked with other poor behavior, such as failing to take medication for diabetes and high blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes can increase stroke risk.

Depression and Stroke: Perspective

"This confirms an important association of depression with stroke," says Ralph Sacco, MD, chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and immediate past president of the American Heart Association.

"This study is large, well-conducted, and looked at not just depressive symptoms but the diagnosis of depression and taking of medication," he tells WebMD. He reviewed the study findings but was not involved in the research.

Although the researchers accounted for such risk factors as high blood pressure and cigarette smoking when they computed stroke risk, he says those factors may still be helping to drive the link.

The take-home message, he says, is to realize that depression affects far more than mental health. "We need to be recognizing depressive symptoms and doing something about it. Often people ignore depression and do not get it properly treated.

"If you are depressed, make sure you get the help you need," he says. Treatment may include medication, counseling, or both.

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