Depression may go hand in hand with a number of other physical health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Now the latest evidence suggests that depression may also increase the risk of stroke.
Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that depression increased the risk of stroke by 45% and the risk of dying from a stroke by 55%.
While previous studies have hinted at the connection between depression and stroke, the results have not been consistent. In the current study, first author An Pan, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, searched the medical literature for all studies involving depression and stroke. Among these, he found 28 trials involving more than 317,000 participants who were followed up for stroke incidence for anywhere from two to 29 years.
In the study, Pan and his colleagues found that depression contributed to the risk of stroke and dying from stroke almost as much as well-established risk factors such as smoking and obesity.
The reason for the connection may have to do with hormones in the nervous system that are affected by depression and can increase stroke risk. Inflammation, another process common to both depression and stroke, may also play a role. And lifestyle factors that are typically associated with depression, such as smoking, eating an unhealthy diet and being overweight, may help explain the link as well.