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Study links depression to risk of stroke in middle-aged women

Depression is a condition that affects millions of people in California and the rest of the United States. Not only can depression in itself cause serious disruptions in a person's life, it can also potentially increase a person's risk for other health complications.

For example, a recent study suggests that having depression could double the risk of stroke for middle-aged women. For that reason, the study's authors said that doctors need to be on the lookout for the mental condition in their female patients. Additionally, the study said that current stroke prevention guidelines overlook the potential role of depression.

The 12-year-long study was conducted by researchers in Australia who surveyed a total of 10,547 women between the ages of 47 and 52. The study asked when about their mental and physical health every three years between 1998 and 2010. Ultimately, the study found that 24 percent of women were determined to suffer from depression and those with depression had a 2.4 times higher chance of having a stroke compared to those who were not depressed.

After researchers accounted for other factors such as age, socioeconomic status, lifestyle choices such as smoking and physiological conditions such as high blood pressure, women with depression were still 1.9 times more likely to suffer from a stroke than women who did not suffer from depression.

Interesting, the researchers also indicated that treatments for depression could potentially be the link between the mental condition and strokes. In October 2012, a study found that a common drug used to treat depression, called  selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), could cause bleeding in the brain that leads to a stroke.

Of course, this isn't to say that women who have been diagnosed with depression should stop taking their SSRI medications to lower the risk of stroke. More research is needed on the apparent link between depression and strokes in middle-aged women.  

Source: CBS News, "Depression may double stroke risk for middle-aged women," Michelle Castillo, May 17, 2013

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