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Depression linked to stroke, vitamin D may help both

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By David Liu, Ph.D.

Saturday, Aug 13, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) -- Being chronically degressed may be a sign of higher risk of stroke, according to a study in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study led by Kathryn Rexrode, M.D.at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass found women who had a history of depression was at 29 percent higher risk of total stroke.  

The study also found women who used anti-depressant medications particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were associated with a 39 percent increased risk of stroke.  Anti-depressant drugs included Prozac, Celexa and Zoloft.

But the researchers speculated that it is not the medications that cause a higher risk of stroke.  Instead use of the drugs only indicates that depression in the patients was more severe.

The study involved in 80,574 women ages 54 to 79 years in the Nurses' Health Study. Participants had no history of stroke at baseline.  During the six-year follow-up, prevalence of depression at baseline was 22 percent in the participants and 1,033 strokes were identified.

Depressed women were often those who were single, smoking, and less physically active, according to the study. They were also more likely to have a higher body mass index, and diseases like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, compared to women without a history depression.

A healthy observer said the study suggests what increases the risk of depression may also increase the risk of stroke and vitamin D can be the missing link between the two.

One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found men who had intake of 600 IU or more of vitamin D per day were 28 percent less likely to suffer stroke and heart attack, compared with those who had an intake of only 100 IU or less per day.  In women, the risk reduction was 16 percent.

The study was conduced by Qi Sun of the Harvard School of public Health in Boston MA.

Another study published in 2008 in the journal Circulation linked low serum vitamin D levels with 60 percent higher risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure, compared with those who had high levels of vitamin D.

Dr. Thomas Wang of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts and colleagues who conducted the study also reported that the association was even stronger among those with high blood pressure.

For the study, Wang et al. followed up 1,739 people at an average age of 59 in the Framingham Heart Study for five years.

Now low serum vitamin D is also associated with high risk of depression.

Nanri A and colleagues from International Medical center of Japan in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan reported on Aug 19, 2009 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that people who had highest levels of vitamin D were 49 percent less likely to feel depressed.

In winter, high levels of vitamin D were found associated with lower risk of depression, particularly severe depression.

Many other studies also suggest that vitamin D can be the cause for depression.

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