Disorder that affects millions in UK tied to 46% higher stroke risk
According to Mental Health Foundation, mixed anxiety and depression is Britain’s most common mental disorder. Recent data shows up to one in six adults in the UK meets the criteria for a diagnosis, meaning a significant portion of the population is likely to experience the disorder in their lifetime. Recent scientific findings have linked the condition to a significantly higher risk of stroke, and suggest the disease may affect the outcome of a brain attack.
The latest findings emerged from an analysis of data collated for the INTERSTROKE Study, which showed individuals with a history of depressive symptoms had a 46 percent higher risk of stroke.
It also showed that those who suffered from depressive symptoms before a stroke tended to have worse outcomes.
The results, published in the journal Neurology, reinforce prior studies that have drawn a link between depression and stroke.
Lead investigator of the study, Robert Murphy, a consultant in stroke and geriatric medicine and a researcher with the clinical research facility at the University of Galway, stressed the importance of recognising depression as a stroke risk factor.
He explained: “Depression is an important risk factor for acute stroke and is potentially a modifiable contributor to the global burden of stroke.
“Even mild depressive symptoms were found in this study to be associated with increased risk of stroke and this adds to the literature that across the full range of depressive symptoms there is an association with increased risk of stroke.”
The analysis drew on data sets from more than 26,000 cases and controls, across 32 different countries.
All participants were asked to provide information about depressive symptoms through questionnaires filled between 2007 and 2015.
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After adjusting for other factors influential on stroke risk, researchers found the link between stroke and depression held.
In fact, depressive symptoms appeared to be linked with both an increased risk of ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke.
What’s more, the risk of stroke increased in line with the severity of depressive symptoms.
Even individuals with mild depression symptoms were found to have a 35 percent higher risk of stroke.
Though this association was consistent across geographic regions and various age groups, it was stronger in men and in those without hypertension.
How may depression affect stroke risk?
Past research has shown that depression impacts platelets, which may lead to abnormalities in blood clotting mechanisms.
Another key factor is that the condition triggers inflammation throughout the body, which is an important precursor for cardiac events.
There is additional evidence that chronic depression can cause long-term changes in the hippocampus – leading to difficulties in cognitive processing.
Though everyone’s experience of the condition may be different, depression is widely considered a preventable disorder.
The most effective preventive measures include talk therapy, medications and exercise.
Exposure to bright lights during the winter months may also offset symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
“Treatment can improve mood, strengthen connections with loved ones and restore satisfaction in interests and hobbies,” explains Harvard Health.
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