Scientists believe that doctors, when determining the risk of stroke, should ask patients about the symptoms of depression.
With depression, the risk of stroke may increase by about 50%, a large new study has shown that published in Neurology: Clinical Practice.
The scientists analyzed data that were collected in a long-term study of geographic differences in stroke incidence that began in 2003. There, 25 thousand people were observed for about 9 years. All participants were tested for depression on a 12-point scale.
During the observation period, people with scores from 1 to 3 on the depression scale (this indicates its mild symptoms) developed stroke 39% more often than those who did not show signs of depressed mood at all. For participants with more severe depression (on a scale of 4 and higher), this figure was 54%.
An important finding, scientists believe, is that they found no difference in the association between depression and strokes in different ethnic groups. In their opinion, this underlines that depression is an independent risk factor for stroke.
“There are many known factors of stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease; but we are beginning to realize that non-traditional risk factors, including symptoms of depression, are high on this list. ” considers Virginia Howard of the University of Alabama School of Public Health at Birmingham.
Howard added that it is necessary to expand and complete the list of questions that doctors usually ask patients to determine their risk of stroke.
What we knew about the connection between depression and stroke before
Pinpointing the exact link between depression and stroke is difficult. Scientists suggested that the reason for this connection may lie not in the depression itself, but in other factors. For example, depression can provoke an unhealthy lifestyle that leads to the development of hypertension and diabetes.
In 2012, scientists spent a meta-analysis that suggested that depression is an independent risk factor for stroke. In 2014 a systematic review came showed similar results. Its authors pointed out that the link between depression and stroke needs to be tested in long-term studies.