Study Highlights Link Between Depressive Symptoms and Stroke Risk


Findings from a collaborative study showed that the more symptoms of depression people have, the higher their risk of stroke, researchers say.

"There are a number of well-known risk factors for strokes, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease; but we are beginning to understand that there are non-traditional risk factors as well, and having depressive symptoms looms high on that list," said study co-author Virginia Howard, Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama.

"These non-traditional risk factors need to be in the conversation about stroke prevention," Howard said.

A person’s race didn't affect stroke risk, according to the study recently published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.

"The traditional risk factors don't explain all the difference in stroke risk between races," said study co-author Cassandra Ford, of the UA College of Nursing.

The takeaway, according to Howard, is that medical professionals need to recognise that stroke risk from depressive factors is high.

“The standard questions asked in the typical physician/patient encounter need to be updated to include questions regarding depressive symptoms,” she said.

“Physicians in primary care, internal medicine and geriatrics need to consider asking their patients about depressive symptoms.”

“As nurses, we care for the entire person,” Ford said.

“When a patient has a particular condition, such as diabetes, hypertension or stroke, that is the focus of diagnosis and care. Our study provides support for considering non-traditional risk factors during the patient’s assessment, particularly conducting some mental health screenings.”

The study was co-funded by a grant from the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional support was provided by the Deep South Resource Centre for Minority Aging Research.