Mental distress may up stroke risk
Increased psychological distress, as measured on a standardized scale, is linked to an elevated risk of having a stroke, according to a large study. By contrast, major depression, either recent or lifetime, does not increase the risk.
The results “showed that those people who reported the most psychological distress at baseline had a 40 percent increased risk of ... stroke compared to those who were least psychologically distressed,” Dr. Paul G. Surtees told Reuters Health.
The lack of a link between major depression and stroke was somewhat surprising to the researchers. “Given evidence from previous studies we might have expected to find an association,” noted Surtees, from the University of Cambridge in the UK. “However, this previous evidence was based on symptoms rather than the diagnosis of depressive disorder.”
Several reports have linked depression with stroke. In most studies, however, depression has been identified as a consequence of stroke. Whether depression can provoke a stroke is a much more controversial topic.
In the current investigation, which is reported in the medical journal Neurology, 20,627 stroke-free subjects were evaluated for major depressive disorder or psychologic distress.
During an average follow-up period of 8.5 years, 595 patients experienced a stroke. As noted, no association between major depressive disorder and stroke was observed, but the presence of psychological distress raised the risk of stroke.
“The identification and treatment of post-stroke depression is well known to be important because of the association with reduced quality of life and mortality,” Surtees emphasized. “Our study provides clarity, and perhaps therefore some reassurance, that major depressive disorder is not associated with incident stroke.”
Still, further population-based studies are needed to confirm these findings, he added.
SOURCE: Neurology, March 4, 2008.
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