Depression affects far more than the mind — as if that alone wasn’t bad enough. Stress and depression has been linked to poor diet, poor sleep, a compromised immune system, heart disease and even cancer.
But there is also a link between stroke and depression. We need to have depression treated in its early stages because the connection is quite strong.
So what is a stroke exactly?
EmpowHER describes a stroke as "a brain injury. It occurs when the brain's blood supply is interrupted. Without oxygen and nutrients from blood, brain tissue dies quickly, in less than 10 minutes. This causes a sudden loss of function."
A stroke needs immediate attention. Read whyhere.
Recently, NPR reported on Epidemiologist Maria Glymour, who led a study on the stroke/depression connection when she was at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
She assumed that she and her colleagues would find that once someone’s depression had been eliminated, any increased risk they had for stroke would go back to normal levels.
However, this was not the case at all.
They found that even two years after depression ended, a person had a 66 percent higher risk of stroke than someone who never had depression at all, according to Gylmour.
Researchers studied more than 16,000 people over the age of fifty, over the course of a dozen years. They analyzed patient reports about their emotional health versus their physical health pertaining to strokes.
They found a correlation with those who reported poor emotional health/depression versus those who had strokes over those twelve years.
The results were that those with depression (even cured depression) were more than twice as likely as those without to get a stroke.
Time Magazine also wrote about this study. “People who had just begun developing depressive symptoms weren’t at higher stroke risk than those without symptoms," Glymor said in an email to Time. “We were surprised to see that changes in depressive symptoms seem to take more than two years to influence risk of stroke."
Time also reported that the researchers feel that those with depression need to know about any potential link to stroke so as to get help quickly.
It's important that mental health specialists advise their patients about the link of poor mental health to poor physical health.
Ultimately, researchers don’t exactly know why this link exists. They theorize that depression affects our physical health and this, combined with a low-functioning immune system, may affect blood pressure or cortisol levels which might increase the risk of stroke.
If you are, or have been, depressed, talk to your doctor about your risks and how to lower them. A healthy lifestyle, good emotional health and care along with knowledge are the keys to minimizing the risk of a stroke — something that can change your life forever.
NPR.org. Health. Shots. “Long-Term Depression May Boost Stroke Risk Long After Mood Improves”. Web. Retrieved May 25th, 1015.
Time Magazine. Health. Mental Health/Psychology. “Depression Can Double Risk for Stroke—Even When It’s Treated”. Web. Retrieved May 25th, 1015.
Stroke Definition & Overview
Reviewed May 28, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith