If you’ve suffered a stroke taking steps to improve your brain health and mood are critical. A recent study has found that people who become depressed after a stroke may have a tripled risk of dying early and four times the risk of death from stroke than people who have not experienced a stroke or depression.
“Up to one in three people who have a stroke develop depression,” said study author Amytis Towfighi, MD, with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “This is something family members can help watch for that could potentially save their loved one.” Towfighi also noted that similar associations have been found regarding depression and heart attack, but less is known about the association between stroke, depression and death.
The research included 10,550 people between the ages of 25 and 74 followed for 21 years. Of those, 73 had a stroke but did not develop depression, 48 had stroke and depression, 8,138 did not have a stroke or depression and 2,291 did not have a stroke but had depression.
After considering factors such as age, gender, race, education, income level and marital status, the risk of dying from any cause was three times higher in individuals who had stroke and depression compared to those who had not had a stroke and were not depressed. The risk of dying from stroke was four times higher among those who had a stroke and were depressed compared to people who had not had a stroke and were not depressed.
“Our research highlights the importance of screening for and treating depression in people who have experienced a stroke,” said Towfighi. ”Given how common depression is after stroke, and the potential consequences of having depression, looking for signs and symptoms and addressing them may be key.”
The risk of developing serious brain problems in a person who has a stroke is six to ten times greater than that in the general population. Even a stroke smaller than a pencil-head eraser increases the risk for dementia four to twelve-fold.
A stroke is a single, damaging attack, but the risk factors that lead to a stroke, such as high blood pressure, smoking, heart disease, and diabetes, develop over a long time. You can reduce your stroke risk by taking the following simple steps:
- Keep blood pressure under control. Check your blood pressure often and if it’s high, follow your doctor’s advice on how to lower it. Treating high blood pressure reduces risk for both stroke and heart disease.
- Stop smoking. Cigarette smoking is linked to increased risk for stroke and heart disease. The risk of stroke for people who have quit smoking for two to five years is lower than that for people who still smoke.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise makes the heart stronger and improves circulation. It also helps control weight. Being overweight increases the chance of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and adult-onset (type 2) diabetes. Physical activities like walking bicycling, swimming, and tennis lower the risk of both stroke and heart disease. Talk with your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and control diabetes. If untreated, diabetes can damage the blood vessels throughout the body and lead to artherosclerosis.