Depressive symptoms linked to high stroke risk

In a new study, researchers found that people with multiple depressive symptoms have an increased risk of stroke.

They showed that individuals who scored higher on a test designed to measure depressive symptoms had a higher stroke risk than those with lower scores.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and elsewhere.

One goal of the study was to see if depressive symptoms might help explain the increased risk that Black populations have for stroke, especially in the southern United States.

The study involved 9,529 Black and 14,516 white stroke-free participants, age 45 and older, enrolled in the UAB-led REGARDS study.

Depressive symptoms were assessed using the four-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, known as CES-D-4, administered during a baseline evaluation of each participant.

The four-item scale evaluates a subset of symptoms and assesses how often respondents felt depressed, sad, or lonely or had crying spells.

There were 1,262 strokes over an average follow-up of nine years among the study cohort.

The team found compared to participants with no depressive symptoms, participants with CES-D-4 scores of one to three had a 39% increased stroke risk after demographic adjustment.

Participants with CES-D-4 scores of more than four experienced a 54% higher risk of stroke after demographic adjustment. There was no evidence of a differential effect by race.

The team says there are a number of well-known risk factors for strokes, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease; but scientists are beginning to understand that there are nontraditional risk factors as well, and having depressive symptoms looms high on that list.

These nontraditional risk factors need to be in the conversation about stroke prevention.

One author of the study is Virginia Howard, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

The study is published in Neurology: Clinical Practice.

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