Women who suffer from depression, as well as those taking antidepressants, are at a significantly increased risk for stroke. A new study from Harvard University researchers found that women with a history of depression are at a 29 percent greater risk of having a stroke compared to those who are not depressed, while those who take antidepressants have an even greater chance of stroke occurring.
The report on the study, recently published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, noted more specifically that among women taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as the popular antidepressants Prozac and Zoloft, have a 39 percent greater likelihood of suffering a stroke. However, as depression is twice as likely in women as in men, although the reasoning behind this remains unclear, the study findings do not apply to men.
Senior study author Kathryn Rexrode, and internist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said, “Depression has now been linked to stroke as well as cardiovascular disease in general.” However, she also pointed out that “these are modest elevations in risk,” which do not indicate that women who take antidepressants need stop their medication. She went on to explain, “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 study involved 80,574 women ranging in age from 54 to 79, who are participants in the Nurses’ Health Study. The researchers examined the women’s depressive symptoms, diagnoses of depression by healthcare professionals, and use of antidepressants, during the period from 2000 to 2006. At the start of the analysis, 22 percent of the women reported having ever suffered from depression. This rate coincides with the nation’s 20 percent estimate of incidence of depression among women.