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Does Depression Increase the Risk of Strokes in the Elderly?

by Dr. Patrick Arbore, Elder Abuse & Depression Expert
September 29, 2011

Question: I have heard that depression increases the risk of stroke in an elderly person. Is this true?

Answer: Cardiovascular disease is the most commonly occurring neurological disorder, which is manifested in either a stroke or a TIA.  Each year in the United States approximately 500,000 people have a stroke, 150,000 of whom die. 

According to the work of Ebersole and Hess (2008), the risk factors for Stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) include:  heart disease; hypertension;  arrhythmia; hypercholesterolemia; diabetes; smoking; coagulopathies; brain tumor; and family history.  The long term effects of a stroke, however, include paralysis and hemiparesis, dysarthrias, dysphagias, and aphasias,  depending on type, extent, and area affected, as well as depression. 

I have not seen any scientific evidence linking depression to stroke in terms of cause and effect.  Certainly, depression cannot be good for an older person.  If you suspect that an older loved one is depressed, I would urge you to contact his or hers primary care physician as soon as possible. 

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Dr. Patrick Arbore is the Founder and Director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention and Grief Related Services (CESP), a program offered by the Institute on Aging in San Francisco. Dr. Arbore conducts workshops and lectures locally and nationally on aging-related subjects. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on suicide prevention, bereavement, suffering, etc., including a chapter he co-authored in the book, “When Professionals Weep".

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