(HealthDay News) — Depression in older adults appears to significantly increase the risk of a stroke, even after depressive symptoms remit, a new study suggests. The report was published online May 13 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Paola Gilsanz, ScD, a research fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues collected data on 16,178 men and women. They were all aged ≥50 and part of the Health and Retirement Study that ran from 1998–2010.

Over 12 years, 1,192 people had a stroke. Throughout the study period, between 10–12% of participants had high levels of depressive symptoms. Another 8–10% of study volunteers reported depression that had recently remitted. The researchers didn’t ask whether depressive symptoms lessened because of treatment or for other reasons. In addition to the overall increased risk of stroke for people with depression, the findings suggested that stroke risk remains elevated even when depression has eased, especially for women, the researchers said. They also noted that people aged <65 who had depressive symptoms had a greater risk of stroke compared to those aged >65 with depression.

“Our findings suggest that effects occur over the longer term through accumulated damage, given that we saw little differential in stroke risk prediction by short-term increases or decreases in depressive symptoms,” the authors write. “Future research should continue to examine possible mediators of the relationship between depressive symptoms and stroke.”

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