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Depression Linked to Double Risk of Stroke in Middle Aged Women

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Depression is a debilitating mental illness, as you probably already know. However, it was surprising to me to learn that middle-aged women who suffer from depression are also more likely to suffer a stroke. In fact, the risk of stroke was nearly double for this group.

The study, conducted by Australian researchers, focused on women ages 47 to 52. The researchers noted that the absolute risk of stroke is low in this group, but that depression may be a stronger risk factor. Overall, the researchers looked at data from over 10,000 women, none of whom had a history of stroke. Over the course of twelve years, 24% of the women reported suffering depression and 117 of those same women had a stroke. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that women who suffered from depression were 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke than those who didn't experience depression. These results held even after controlling for other common factors attributed to stroke including high blood pressure, obesity, socioeconomic status, age, heart disease, and other lifestyle choices such as smoking. The researchers warn that the results do not imply that depression causes stroke; rather stroke is linked to stroke.

A stroke occurs when a damaged artery deprives the brain of oxygenated blood, which causes brain cells to die and toxic chemicals to rise. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., which 117,000 affected annually. May is National Stroke Awareness month and you can help to prevent death from stroke by spotting the warning signs early in those around you. The handy acronym "F.A.S.T." can be used to help you do so: F stands for face dropping, A stands for arm weakness, S stands for speech difficulty and T stands for time to call for help (if the person exhibits any of these symptoms).