Stroke and Depression

Stroke Associated With An Increase In Suicidal Thoughts [Study]

Honolulu, HI – A federal survey, discussed Thursday at the American Stroke Association conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, reveals one in 12 stroke survivors entertain thoughts about suicide. More than six million Americans have had a stroke; about 800,000 occur each year. The average of stroke sufferers contemplating suicide exceeds those recovering from heart attacks and cancer. The results concern researchers, showing there is a glaring need for additional treatment regarding depression and suicide intervention and prevention.

Dr. Amytis Towfighi of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles says:

“When patients have their depression treated they’re more motivated to take their medication, do therapy and live a full life.”

A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. If blood flow is interrupted for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot receive oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage.

There are two major types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. Ischemic strokes may also be caused by clogged arteries from fat and cholesterol deposits collecting on the artery walls, forming a sticky substance called plaque. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain.

According to the American Heart Association, there are seven variables important in predicting whether a person with stroke had recent suicidal thoughts: depression score on psychological screenings, age, BMI, level of education, socioeconomic status, gender, and marital status. Suicidal thoughts were more likely in people who scored high on depression tests andwere younger, overweight, less educated, poor, female, and unmarried.

For study purposes, Towfighi used National Health and Nutrition Surveys where more than 17,000 people complied with medical checkups and questionnaires from 2005 through 2010.

Although uncertain of the time line from onset, persistence, and treatment of the illnesses, those used in the research included 678 who had suffered a stroke, 758 who had had a heart attack, and 1,242 with cancer.

When asked to gauge suicidal thinking, about eight percent of stroke survivors said they had considered it compared to six percent of heart attack patients and four percent with cancer.

One of the primary reasons for the increased preoccupation with suicide had to do with depression. Stroke sufferers can survive with permanent mental and physical repercussions, limiting mobility and quality of life. Also, it is possible a stroke can damage areas of the brain associated with mood. Overall, these factors can contribute to depression.

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