05/17/2013 03:37 pm ET

Depression May Raise Women's Stroke Risk


A new study shows just how important mental health is to the health of our bodies.

The findings, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that having depression may double the risk of stroke for middle-aged women.

"When treating women, doctors need to recognize the serious nature of poor mental health and what effects it can have in the long term," study researcher Caroline Jackson, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Queensland in Australia, said in a statement.

The study included 10,547 women between ages 47 and 52 who were followed for 12 years. Of those women, 24 percent reported having depression and 177 of the women had a stroke for the first time during the study period.

Women with depression had a 2.4 times higher risk of stroke compared with women without depression, researchers found. And after taking into account other stroke factors, they still had a 1.9 times higher risk of stroke.

A similar study, conducted in 80,000 women with an average age of 66 who were part of the Nurses' Health Study, showed that depression can raise stroke risk by 30 percent. That study showed a potential role of antidepressant medication in stroke risk, as women with a history of depression who were on these drugs had a 40 percent higher risk of stroke, and women without a history of depression who were on the drugs had a 30 percent higher risk of stroke.

That association may go in the other direction, as well. Past research has also shown that stroke survivors face a higher risk of later depression, PsychCentral reported.



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