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Women, Depression and Stroke

admin - August 18, 2011

Depression and Stroke

An August 12 USA Today article reports that women with a “history of depression” have a higher risk of stroke. This is according to findings from a recent study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Some of the interesting details from this study are that women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft, run a 39% higher risk for stroke than non-depressed women and a 10% higher risk than depressed women who are not using antidepressants.

Yet, women should not stop taking their antidepressant medications, according to the study’s lead author Kathryn Rexrode, who said, “Although we found women who took antidepressants were at higher risk, I don’t have anything to indicate it’s because of the medications.”

The reason for the mention of antidepressants is, as lead researcher An Pan points out, that a woman who is prescribed antidepressants is typically experiencing a deeper depression, and it is the depression that is the significant link to stroke risks, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity

In fact, as previously indicated, depressed women who do not take antidepressants still have a 29% higher risk of stroke than non-depressed women. 

Summary of the Study

The study followed only women, and it is noted that findings for men in the same type of study might be different. The article also points out the fact that women are twice more likely than men to have a depressive disorder.

Meanwhile the summary of this study is:

  • Researchers followed 80,574 women ages 54 to 79 from 2000 to 2006
  • At the beginning of the study 22% of women reported ever having depression (which can be compared to the national incidence of 20% in women)
  • During the study, 1,033 stroke cases were reported

Also mentioned is the fact that stroke is the third leading cause of death, and it is actually an issue that affects more women than men, according to the National Stroke Association. But, Pan says women can reduce risk by:

  • Avoiding smoking
  • Starting an exercise regimen
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Working with your doctor to control diabetes and blood pressure

He also says, that if you are feeling depressed, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not treatment is needed.

The entire USA Today article can be read at:

Other Resources:

HealthDay Article: “In Women, Diabetes Plus Depression a Deadly Combo” at:

HealthDay Article: “Ninety Percent of Stroke Risk Due to 10 Risk Factors” at:

YouTube video about stroke:


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