Researchers in Alabama have found that people who suffer from multiple depressive symptoms are at an increased risk of having a stroke. In conducting the research, the researchers hoped to find out whether these symptoms may go some way to explain the increased risk that black populations have for stroke, especially in southern states in the US.
For the study, the researchers examined data from 9,529 black participants and 14,516 white participants. All were aged 45 or older and had not had a stroke before inclusion in the study. Each participant was assessed for depressive symptoms via the four-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, known as CES-D-4, that includes measures for feeling depressed, sad, lonely, or having crying spells.
Over a nine-year period, the researchers recorded 1,262 strokes. All in all, they found that participants who scored 1-3 on the CES-D-4 had a 39% higher risk factor of having a stroke than those who scored 0. Meanwhile, those with a score of 4 were 54% more likely to have a stroke. The researchers noted that race had no effect on the results.
"There are a number of well-known risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease; but we are beginning to understand that there are nontraditional risk factors as well, and having depressive symptoms looms high on that list," says Virginia Howard, senior author of the paper. "These nontraditional risk factors need to be in the conversation about stroke prevention."
A major takeaway from the research, according to Howard, is that medical professionals need to recognize that depression is a large risk factor for having a stroke. As such, she further recommends that standard questions asked by a typical physician or patient counter need to be updated with questions that delve into depressive symptoms.