Print

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR

Studies have shown that depression increases the risk for stroke. Now a new analysis has found that the risk persists even if symptoms subside.

Researchers interviewed 16,178 stroke-free men and women, average age 65, on two occasions, two years apart. They used a well-validated scale to assess whether they had symptoms of depression, characterizing them as consistently low or none, having an onset or remission between interviews, or consistently high.

The researchers followed them for two years after the second interview, during which 1,192 strokes occurred. The study is in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Unsurprisingly, they found that persistently high depressive symptoms were associated with more than double the risk for stroke, and those with no or low symptoms were not at elevated risk.

But they also found that even those whose symptoms had remitted between interviews were still at higher risk, and the difference between these people and those whose depression remained high was statistically insignificant.

Whether treatment for depression would decrease the risk for stroke remains unknown, said the lead author, Paola Gilsanz, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard. “We did not differentiate why people recovered from depression,” she wrote in an email. “It seems very plausible that different reasons for recovery might have different consequences, but we cannot tell from our study.”