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Study: Depressed women in 40s, 50s suffer more than twice for stroke risk

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 17th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A landmark study has found that women in their 40s and 50s who suffer from depression are more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke. It appears that this mental health condition makes them more vulnerable in this age group, which is younger than previously expected.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - The 12-year study of thousands of women between the ages of 47 to 52, it was found those with depression were 2.4 times more likely to suffer a stroke compared to those without.

Even after removing risk factors, depressed women were still nearly twice as likely to suffer a stroke.

"Doctors need to recognize the serious nature of poor mental health and what effects it can have in the long term," study author Caroline Jackson says. Jackson says that the current guidelines for stroke prevention overlook the potential role of depression. "We may need more targeted approaches to prevent and treat depression in younger women."
 
Jackson, an epidemiologist, along with her colleagues at the University of Queensland analyzed results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. The occasion marked the first large-scale study examining the link between depression and stroke in younger middle-aged women.

More than 10,500 answered questions about their mental and physical health and other personal details every three years from 1998-2010.

One in four female subjects reported being depressed, based on their replies to a standardized depression scale and recent use of anti-depressants.

Researchers took into account factors which can affect stroke risk, such as age, socioeconomic status and lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking and physical activity. Physiological conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, being overweight and diabetes were also included.

Jackson says she expects similar results to her study in America and Europe.

The reasons for the link remain unclear. Jackson says that the effects on blood vessels of the body's inflammatory and immunological processes may be involved.

Other possible factors are that patients with depression tend to have less healthy diets and take less exercise and are less likely to take medicine if they have high blood pressure or cholesterol, both risk factors for stroke. Some anti-depressants may also slightly raise the threat.

Jackson reassures women that the absolute risk of stroke was still fairly low in this age group. In the study, about 1.5 percent of the total had a stroke, rising to just over two percent among those with depression.

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