In distinctly depressing news, it’s been confirmed those suffering from depression are more likely to suffer a stroke than a mentally healthy individual. Around 4% of the estimated 795,000 strokes that occur in the U.S. each year put down to depression. Not only that, but depressed individuals are more likely to have strokes that are fatal.
That’s according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Depression is still a pretty small issue when compared with conditions such as high blood pressure, but it’s a factor. Here’s what says An Pan, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a Harvard research fellow, has to say:
“If you have depression but no other health issues, you probably don’t have to pay too much attention to stroke risk. But if you are depressed and are also obese, or have hypertension or…unhealthy lifestyle factors, your risk is going to increase dramatically.”
This is the latest of many studies to link depression to chronic disease and physical health issues, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. But until now, a link between depression and strokes was not recognized. Says Pan:
“We also knew that depression can occur after patients suffer a stroke. We just didn’t have strong enough evidence to know if the reverse was true, or what really comes first.”
There are other factors that are trickier to measure however, as Norman Rosenthal, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, pointed out to CNN.
Rosenthal notes those afflicted by depression are more likely to neglect taking medication for other stroke-related conditions. He also states depression can increase the production of stress hormones in the body, triggering inflammation in blood vessels.
“Little things, like keeping up good dental hygiene or socializing with friends, all affect inflammation levels – and these are things that a depressed person is less likely to do,” adds Rosenthal.