Christian Counseling: Research Links Depressed Women With Increased Stroke Risk

Do you know what is the leading cause of death in women? Cardiovascular disease!   Beyond the often recognized biological reasons for heart disease (poor diet, high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, inactivity, etc.)  there are the psychological reasons, such as repressed anger and depression. Many research studies have shown a clear link between these two psychological issues and cardiovascular disease. Today, our focus is on depression and the heart. 

Depression results in biological changes that are connected to cardiovascular disease, such as: artery inflammation contributing to artery-clogging atherosclerosis, increased stress hormones, which lessens blood flow, activating the clumping of platelets that form clots, and decreasing good cholesterol, which leads to increased heart disease.

More recent research has now linked depressed women with an increased risk for stroke. Specifically, a six-year study of over 80,000 women found depressed women had a 41% greater risk for stroke than women who did not report being depressed or take anti-depressant medication.1

Yes, use of antidepressant medication is associated with an increase risk for strokes. The question that future research needs to determine is whether the higher risk for stroke is the result of antidepressant use or the result of depression for which antidepressants were taken. 

Ignoring or being unaware of depressive symptoms is a serious issue. Some of the common symptoms of depression are:  depressed mood (sad or empty feelings), loss of interest or pleasure, fatigue, sleep disturbance, changes in appetite, suicide ideology and decreased concentration. Other symptoms of depression can include being less aware of and/or motivated to eating healthily, exercising regularly and remaining in contact with supportive others.

People don't always know they are depressed because depression has many faces-- irritability, boredom, perfectionism, decreased ability to function or be productive, increased complains about physical symptoms and anaclytic depression, which is suppressed or repressed anger  taken out on the self through self-criticism or other forms of self-abuse.

If others have said you may be depressed or you are unsure if you are, get an evaluation from your physician or licensed therapist. The treatment of choice for moderate to serious depression is combined medication and talk therapy (counseling). For mild to moderate depression, talk therapy is often a better choice over medication. Don't delay, get help for your heart and for your peace of mind.  

1 Miller, Michael Craig, M.D. Depression and heart disease in women. Harvard Mental health Newsletter. February 2012: Vol 28, No.                        8, pp. 1,2.

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