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Depressed Women Have Higher Risk of Stroke
Source:Chinese Women's Research Network | Release Date:2011-8-25-
Title: Depressed Women Have Higher Risk of Stroke
Release Date: August 25, 2011
Keyword: depressed women, risk of stroke

Women who take antidepressants have something new to worry about: They could be at increased risk of having a stroke, Harvard researchers say.

A study published Thursday in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association reports that women with a history of depression have a 29% greater risk of having a stroke than non-depressed women, and those who take antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (such as Prozac or Zoloft), face a 39% higher risk.

"Depression has now been linked to stroke as well as cardiovascular disease in general," says internist Kathryn Rexrode, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the study's senior author. But "these are modest elevations in risk," she says, and should not lead women to stop taking antidepressants.

"Although we found women who took antidepressants were at higher risk, I don't have anything to indicate it's because of the medications," she says.

Use of antidepressants most likely indicates more severe depression, says lead researcher An Pan of the Harvard School of Public Health, and depression has been linked to stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, smoking and physical inactivity.

The study followed 80,574 women ages 54 to 79 who are part of the Nurses' Health Study. Researchers examined participants' symptoms of depression, use of antidepressants and diagnoses of depression by doctors from 2000 to 2006. At the outset, 22% of the women reported ever having depression, similar to the national prevalence of 20% in women. Over the course of the study, there were 1,033 stroke cases.

The findings might not apply to men, Pan says. Depression is twice as likely in women as in men; reasons for the difference are unknown.

The study is important because it draws a link between stroke risk and a history of depression, says Philip Gorelick, director of the Center for Stroke Research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, who was not involved in the research. "This relationship has been suspected for a long time, but has not received the study and attention that it might deserve."

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the USA, after heart disease and cancer, and it hits 425,000 women a year, 55,000 more than men, the National Stroke Association says. To reduce risk of stroke, Pan says, women can make changes in behavior — stop smoking, follow a healthier diet, exercise — and work with doctors to control diabetes and blood pressure. If you might be depressed, he says, talk to a doctor to see whether treatment is needed.

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