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Depression increases the risk of stroke

By using data collected in the context of INTERSTROKE – a global study of 26,877 adults with an average age of 62, spanning 32 countries and aiming to clarify the risk factors for stroke in different regions of the world – a team of researchers led by the University of Galway in Ireland has found that people with symptoms of depression were more likely to suffer an acute stroke and have a worse recovery afterwards.

“Depression affects people around the world and can have a wide range of impacts across a person’s life,” said lead author Robert Murphy, a consultant Stroke Physician and researcher at the College of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences at Galway.

“Our study provides a broad picture of depression and its link to risk of stroke by looking at a number of factors including participants’ symptoms, life choices, and antidepressant use. Our results show depressive symptoms were linked to increased stroke risk and the risk was similar across different age groups and around the world.”

After adjusting for other risk factors, including age, sex, education, physical activity, and various lifestyle factors, the experts found that people with depressive symptoms before stroke had a 46 percent increased risk of stroke compared to those with no symptoms, with the risk of stroke increasing proportionally with how many depressive symptoms participants had. For instance, participants who reported three to four symptoms and those who reported one or two symptoms had 58 and 35 percent higher risk, respectively, in comparison to those with no such symptoms. In addition, although participants with symptoms of depression did not seem more likely to have more severe strokes, they were more likely to experience worse functional outcomes one month after the stroke than those without symptoms.

“The goal of INTERSTROKE is to better understand the importance of risk factors for stroke in different regions of the world and impact of stroke. In the INTERSTROKE study we have previously examined the roles of hypertension, alcohol, lipids, and psychosocial stress as global determinants of stroke risk,” said senior author Martin O’Donnell, a professor of Neurovascular Medicine at Galway.

“The current analysis provides deeper insights into the association of depressive symptoms with stroke risk, reporting an increased risk. These analyses suggest that effective identification and management of depression may also be associated with reduced stroke risk, although the observational nature of the study does not permit definitive conclusions.”

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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