Depression in older women is linked to an increased risk of stroke, a new study based on data from the Nurses' Health Study finds.
Depression in older women is linked to an increased risk of stroke, a new study finds. The study, published online last week in the journal Stroke, followed 80,574 women aged 54-79 who had no prior history of stroke and were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study from 2000-2006.
The researchers gauged participants’ level of depression with the Mental Health Index and checked on antidepressant use every two years. They found that those with a history of depression had a 29% increased risk of stroke, even after taking stroke risk factors into account. Women who were on antidepressant medication had a 39% increased risk of stroke.
However, senior study author Kathryn Rexrode, MD, an associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, cautioned that antidepressant use could be an indication of more severe depression. “I don't think the medications themselves are the primary cause of the risk,” she said in a press release. “This study does not suggest that people should stop their medications to reduce the risk of stroke."
Depressed women in the study were more likely to be single, smokers, and less physically active. They were also slightly younger, had a higher body mass index, and had more coexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.