Depression and risk of stroke have a surprising connection. According to research released yesterday, women who are currently depressed or have a history of depression have a 29 percent increased stroke risk. Researchers at Harvard studied 81,000 women, aged 54 to 79 for six years who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study. The reason for the connection is unknown, but the lead study author theorizes that women who are depressed tend to be overweight, smoke cigarettes and are less active, which could lead to the increase. Antidepressants aren’t thought to contribute to the risk.
As a matter of fact, antidepressants recently were found to help those who had suffered from a stroke rehabilitate faster. The new study found that just three months of treatment with the common antidepressant medications fluoxetine and nortriptyline not only relieved depressive symptoms when measured nine months later, but appeared to improve patients’ physical conditions as well. The results raise the possibility that these medications might aid recovery through a mechanism independent of their antidepressant effects.
Other connections have been made with women and strokes recently. New research suggests that women over 45 who experience migraines with aura are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke. Migraines with aura are headaches that are preceded by visual impairments such as blind spots and blurred vision. Of the 18 percent of females who have migraines, more than one-third of these women experience migraines with aura. Fortunately, while migraines with aura may help predict a stroke from occurring, it appears to have no influence on long-term damage following a stroke. Women with migraines with aura had comparable recovery rates to women without headaches who suffered from strokes.
But in good news, fish consumption has been seen to lower stroke risk in women. Lean fish is specifically known to decrease blood pressure in patients with heart disease. Thus, we understand that there is a definite risk reduction for stroke in women who consume high quantities of fish — just make sure it’s a lean fish you’re eating regularly.
And always remember the five top warning signs you may be having a stroke:
* Sudden numbness on one side of the body
* Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
* Sudden severe headache
* Sudden trouble seeing on one eye
* Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or trouble walking