Women who are taking antidepressants, such as Prozac or Zoloft, or have been diagnosed as depressed are at a higher risk of stroke by nearly 40 percent, according to a Harvard University study.
The study stated that women who take antidepressants increase their risk of stroke by 39 percent and women who have a history of depression have a 29 percent risk increase.
Antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Lexapro, Prozac and Zoloft increased the risk, though senior author Kathryn Rexrode of Harvard Medical School said this should not hinder women to take antidepressants.
"Depression has now been linked to stroke as well as cardiovascular disease in general," Rexrode said. "Although we found women who took antidepressants were at higher risk, I don't have anything to indicate it's because of the medications."
Depression in general can lead to symptoms like high blood pressure and heart disease that can induce a stroke, according to Rexrode. These conditions are what actually lead to stroke, rather than being directly induced by taking the medications alone.
The study published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke comprised over 80,000 women aged 54 to 79. Monitoring symptoms of depression and antidepressant usage, 1,033 women were reported to take a stroke over the six year study.
However, depressed women compared to those without a history of stroke are more likely to suffer a stroke due to lifestyle factors; Depressed women tend to be younger, likely single, have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), smoke and exercise less, which are all factors that can lead to stroke, according to the study.
Men, who were not included in the study, are not likely to suffer the same increased risks for stroke as women, according to the study, since women are twice more+ likely to become depressed than men.
As the third leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the National Stroke Association, nearly 20 percent of women are diagnosed as depressed in the U.S., a figure which the study mimicked at the 22 percent outcome.
The study prompts attention on the risks of stroke for women who are depressed, alerting doctors' attention to those diagnosed as clinically depressed. Authors of the study say it merits for additional research for preventative measures to reduce the risk of stroke in depressed women.