The findings of a new study presented by the American Heart Association has revealed that individuals with chronic depression could have an extremely high risk of being affected by stroke as well, and this risk still exists even after the depression goes away.
“This study tells us that if you have a high depression screening score, you have more than a two-fold increase in risk of stroke,” the researchers say. “Furthermore, in the follow up period, if the depression symptoms resolve, you still have 66% risk of having a stroke.”
A group of public health researchers at the University of California, Washington, Minnesota and Harvard conducted a careful analysis of the data obtained from around 16,000 individuals. They asked these subjects about their stroke history, depressive symptoms and behaviors that could put them at a risk of stroke.
“We already knew that people with depression, or even symptoms of depression, had higher stroke risk,” the researchers explained. “What we didn’t know is whether if the symptoms of depression went away, the stroke risk would also go away.”
“We were surprised that for this group of people, with symptoms of depression at one interview but not the second interview, stroke risk remained significantly elevated (by about 66%) compared to people who had not had symptoms of depression at either interview,” they added. “We expected the stroke risk would be back to baseline.”
However, the researchers aren’t exactly sure as to which this risk doesn’t fade away with the reduction in depression symptoms. It is true that depression is thought to be related to many unhealthy behaviors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but it doesn’t completely explain the risk of stroke.
“Another set of possible pathways are biological changes including increased platelet activity, inflammation and cardiometabolic conditions such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes,” the researchers speculate.
Considering the fact that depression does have a profound impact on health, it makes sense that the risk of many associated health conditions still exist even after the remittance of depression symptoms.
“A lot of practitioners are really not aware of this relationship,” the researchers further explain. “If you have a patient who is depressed, you’d better be careful, because the depression is going to be a marker that your patient is going to be at risk for stroke and heart attack.”
“In some more advanced medical practices,” they added, “what we are now doing is screening for depression, and if you have depression and another cardiovascular risk factor, then these patients are getting very intensive risk management from a team, and the team is now including psychiatrists.”
Considering that this is the first study which has looked at the link between depression symptoms and stroke risk, further data is needed.