Baby Boomers, beware. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that chronic depression might double the risk of stroke in adults over the age of 50. Persistent depression might even increase stroke risk well after the signs and symptoms of depression disappear, particularly for women.
The study, entitled “Changes in Depressive Symptoms and Incidence of First Stroke Among Middle-Aged and Older US Adults,” looked at health information from 16,178 men and women ages 50 and older participating in the Health and Retirement Study between 1998 and 2010.
Stroke Risk Study Involves SemiAnnual Interviews
Study participants were interviewed every two years about a variety of health measures, including depressive symptoms, history of stroke, and stroke risk factors. There were 1,192 strokes among participants during the study period.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines persistent depressive disorder as being in a depressed mood which lasts for a minimum of 2 years. According to the study’s lead writer, Ms. Paola Gilsanz, Sc.D., Yerby Postdoctoral Study Fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan College of Public Health, the study concludes that depression might also increase the chance of stroke over the long run.
First Time for Stroke Predictive Results
“This is the first study evaluating how changes in depressive symptoms predict changes in stroke risk,” says Gilsanz. “If replicated, these findings suggest that clinicians should seek to identify and treat depressive symptoms as close to onset as possible, before harmful effects on stroke risk start to accumulate.”
Gilanz went on to say, “What our study provides is evidence that these results take time to build up, however, we still have numerous questions to answer regarding how and why this occurs.” He added that unraveling this secret could help decrease the link between depression and stroke.
Next Steps for Researchers
The NIMH reports that about seven percent of all adults in the United States experience significant depressive disorder in almost any given year. A previous study showed that depression is related to the increased risk of hypertension, irregularities of the autonomic nervous system, and elevated inflammatory responses.
Simply because this is actually the 1st study to look at modifications in depressive symptoms in this way, Gilsanz stated that the next step is to see if these results stay accurate in numerous samples and throughout various age groups; along with looking at individuals whose symptoms went away for various reasons.
Possible Reasons for Link to Stroke Risk
She also points out that some experts argue this affiliation is actually because of subclinical vascular disease within the brain causing both melancholy and stroke. Future research to tease this out – for instance, incorporating brain imaging or any other research styles – might be able to address this issue, according to Gilsanz.
Researchers didn’t examine whether or not depressive symptoms diminished due to treatment or for other factors. However, they stated the results suggest that treatment, even if efficient for depression, might not have instant advantages for stroke risk.
Urgent Need for Depression Treatment
Experts also suggested that reduced depression may have a stronger impact on ladies than men. They also believe that a recent onset of depression didn’t appear to be related to higher stroke risk.
For those in high risk categories, this study highlights the urgent need for individuals, such as females over the age of 50, to address recurring depressive symptoms as soon as possible.