A new study shows that women who have a history of depression and are taking antidepressant SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft or Celexa face a 39% greater risk of having a stroke.
The study was published Thursday in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. It also reveals that women who have historically wrestled with depression but do not take any medication for it have a 29% greater risk of having a stroke than non-depressed women.
USA TODAY reports that the six-year long study's senior author, Internist Kathryn Rexrode who is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School says
"Depression has now been linked to stroke as well as cardiovascular disease in general, but these are modest elevations in risk, and should not lead women to stop taking antidepressants. Although we found women who took antidepressants were at higher risk, I don't have anything to indicate it's because of the medications."
Lead researcher, An Pan of the Harvard School of Public Health says the use of antidepressants by women usually indicates that their depression is more severe than those who don't and depression in general has been linked to stroke risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, smoking and physical inactivity. Pan points out that the findings of the study do not seem to apply to men, and that depression in women is twice as likely to occur in women than men, the reasons for which are unknown.
The BBC reports that the study followed 80,000 women. They were compared to women who were not depressed. The findings were that the depressed women were also more likely to be single, smokers, less physically active, slightly younger and have a higher body mass index along with conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
During the research, 1,033 women had a stroke.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. The National Stroke Association says it strikes 425,000 women a year, that's 55,000 more than men. To cut back on the risk of stroke, researcher Pan says, women can make changes in their behavior, stop smoking, follow a healthier diet, exercise, and work with doctors to control diabetes and blood pressure.