Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Would Depression Raise Stroke Risk?

When the blood flow to the brain is blocked, stroke would occur. It is one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability globally. It usually happens to elderly people but it can strike anyone including young people, children and even babies too.

Being a state of feeling sad, depression can affect thoughts, feelings and ability to function in everyday’s life. A number of factors including stress, difficult life events, side effects of medications, and unpleasant environmental factors can trigger depression. Depression can occur at any age. It is estimated that almost 10 percent of American adults (aged 18 and above) experience some sort of depression every year.

There are not many debates on the argument that people who had strokes are likely to have depression, as previous studies had shown. But it appears that experts have yet to have consensus on whether depression would lead to stroke.

For example, researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pointed out in the July/August 2000 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine that people experiencing symptoms of depression are at an increased risk of getting stroke. The 20-year study found that people with high levels of depression symptoms were 73 percent more likely to have stroke, while those with moderate levels of depression symptoms were 25 percent more likely to develop stroke.

On the other hand, a large study, published on March 3, 2008 in the journal Neurology, reported that depression does not appear to increase the risk of stroke, and it is the high degree of psychological distress seemed to raise the risk.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge studied more than 20,000 people aged between 41 and 80 over a period of 8 and half years to discover if there is a link between depression and stroke.

600 people in the study suffered a stroke, 28 percent of which were fatal. But the researchers could not find any significant link between depression and stroke, after they factored for known risk factors like family history, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. Instead, they identified psychological distress as the culprit. The most distressed people had a 40 percent higher chance of getting a stroke. The findings were similar for both men and women.

Distress occurs when an individual could not cope with stress. It can be marked by anxiety and problems with emotional control.

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