How long-term depression may be connected to stroke

Recent scientific research holds that long-term depression can increase the risk of stroke, as certain antidepressants can raise blood pressure and cause hypertension, which is a stroke precursor.

According to epidemiologist Maria Glymour, who led a study at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the former general consensus in regards to depression leading to stroke was that once the depression was treated, the risk of stroke was too. Further research has shown that even after two years of recovery from chronic depression, a person’s risk for stroke is 66 percent higher than it was for somebody who had never experienced depression.

The study analyzed data over a 12-year period and observed more than 16,000 adults ages 50 and older. The participants completed a survey every two years from 1998 to 2010 that asked about their mood from the previous week. They were asked if they often felt depressed, felt that everything they did was an effort, had restless sleep, felt lonely, couldn’t “get going” and if they felt sad.

Those who answered “yes” to three or more of the questions were determined to be depressed. The researchers also kept track of whether the participants had a stroke during the 12-year study period. Glymour had expected the people with long-term depression to have a higher risk of stroke and they did.  According to Glymour, changes in immune function, inflammatory response or nervous system functioning might all influence blood pressure or cortisol levels, which would increase the risk of stroke.

Some scientists believe that certain antidepressants can cause strokes as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, venlafaxine (Effexor), bupropion (Wellbutrin) and desipramine (Norpramin) can cause high blood pressure.

It’s important that people diagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants are checking their blood pressure regularly. It’s also suggested to seek out alternative methods of treatment for depression. Amino-acid supplements, as well as natural serotonin re-uptake inhibitors are available on the market. A therapist, psychiatrist or a medical doctor would be able to determine exactly how to treat the depression.

How the mind works

Understanding how the human brain works can assist in understanding how to beat depression. The breakdown of how neurons communicate according to Harvard Medical School is as follows:

  1. An electrical signal travels down the axon
  2. Chemical neurotransmitter molecules are released
  3. The neurotransmitter molecules bind to receptor sites
  4. The signal is picked up by the second neuron and is either passed along or halted
  5. The signal is also picked up by the first neuron, causing reuptake, the process by which the cell that released the neurotransmitter takes back some of the remaining molecules

Theorists believe that the answer to this could stem from a possibility that a person’s mood will only improve as the nerves grow and form new connections. The process of nerves growing and forming new connections usually takes a few weeks.

There is not a one-size-fits-all treatment plan for everybody experiencing depression. If you would like more information on treatment for depression or any other mental health disorder, you can call the Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178.