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Women with depression have 29 percent higher stroke risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) New findings may be enough to coax depressed individuals to seek treatment. Women who are depressed may be at an increased risk of having a stroke.

Even after ruling out various factors of stroke, women with depression still remain at a 29 percent increased risk for a stroke, and those taking anti-depressants were found to be at a 39 percent increased chance of a stroke.

"Don't stop taking your anti-depressants."

Women most at risk were those taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, a common treatment for depression, which includes drugs Celexa, Prozac and Zoloft. 

Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, the study’s senior author and associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that she does not believe that the medications are the primary cause of the added risk, and warned that the study did not suggest that patients should stop their medications to lower their risk of stroke.

Instead she said that anti-depressants may indicate the severity of a person's depression, which potentially increased their stroke risk.

Investigators followed 80,574 women between the ages of 54 and 79 years old who were enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study between 2000 and 2006. None had a prior history of stroke. Most study participants were white registered nurses.

They assessed symptoms of depression several times throughout the study using the Mental Health Index. Anti-depressant use was reported every two years.

About 22 percent of the women were diagnosed as depressed, and researchers documented 1,033 incidents of stroke during the six years they followed the women.

In comparison to women with no history of depression, the depressed women were more likely to be single, smoke and be less physically active. They also were slightly younger, had a higher body mass index and a larger number of other conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Dr. Rexrode said these factors could contribute to the increased risk. Inflammation in depressed women also might increase the risk of stroke.

The study was published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 11, 2011
Last Updated:
August 14, 2011