Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. About 143,000 of the 795,000 people who suffer from stroke die from it each year.
Stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off due to:
- artery blockage
- hardening of the arteries
- embolism to the brain from the heart (blood-clots from the heart travel to the brain arteries)
- rupture of an artery
According to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are five major signs of stroke and these include sudden onset of the following:
- Numbness or Weakness of the Face, Arm or Leg
This may particularly occur on one side of the body. Sensation and voluntary movement may be partially or completely lost. This is often accompanied by tingling sensation in the affected areas.
- Confusion and Trouble Speaking or Understanding
- Vision Trouble in One or Both Eyes
- Struggle Walking, Nausea, Dizziness, and Loss of Balance and Coordination
- Unexplained Severe Headache
Countless studies have been done to investigate stroke and the risk factors that make people more prone to it.
It is a common knowledge that some factors make a person more susceptible to stroke, such as:
- high blood pressure
- high levels of cholesterol
Another Risk Factor: Depression
Recently, a study showed the depression can also increase the risk of stroke. People who are suffering from this mental disorder are more likely to succumb to stroke than people who are in top mental state. Not only that, the study also noted that their strokes are more likely to be fatal. These findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Compared to hypertension and other health conditions that damage blood vessels, depression is a minor risk factor. However, as high as 4 percent of the average 795,000 stroke cases that take place in the country every year can be attributed to this mental problem.
An Pan, who is a PhD and a lead author of the analysis and a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said that a person doesn't have to pay too much attention to stroke risk if he/she doesn't have any other health issues than depression. But if a person is depressed and at the same time is obese or have hypertension, his/her risk for stroke is increased significantly.
Pan and his research team collected findings of 28 studies from the mid-1990s. These included about 318,000 people. About 2.7 percent of the participants had a stroke during the studies. These studies ranged from two to 29 years.
- Ischemic Stroke
The researchers have found that people who were depressed were 45 percent more likely to have a stroke and 55 percent more likely to die from it. The particular type of stroke that depression increased the risk of is ischemic stroke, a condition in which the blood vessel is blocked and the blood supply to the brain is cut.
Depression is a risk factor for stroke because people who are depressed are more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits such as:
- heavy smoking
- eating of poor diet
Apart from that, depression can also promote the production of stress hormones that in turn can inflame the blood vessels.
On top of all these, some antidepressants can cause weight gain or obesity, which are known risk factors for stroke.