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Serious Depression May Increase Risk for Stroke and Heart Disease in Older Adults

As we age, we’re more likely to experience depression and its symptoms. While this has been linked to both heart disease and stroke in both middle-aged and older adults, scientists have so far been unable to say whether depression and its symptoms are risk factors for these conditions.
To find out more, French researchers set up a study to examine the effects of depression and its symptoms on older adults, and to determine whether these did have an effect on heart disease and stroke. Their study, which was published in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, was based on studying over 7,300 older adults from three large cities in France.
The researchers selected their test subjects from the cities’ election rolls from 1999 to 2001. Of the 7,313 people studied, none had a history of heart disease, stroke or dementia prior to the commencement of the study. By conducting face-to-face interviews, both at the beginning of the study and at regular intervals over a 10 year period, the researchers were able to collect valuable information about their medical history, medications and the status of their mental health, together with their blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The researchers also noted whether the participants of the study were exhibiting any symptoms normally associated with depression.

What the researchers found when the study started

When the study started, the researchers found that almost 30% of the female participants, and 15% of the male participants showed high levels of depressive symptoms. During each follow up visit; almost half of these people no longer had the symptoms, although about there were about the same number of participants developing new symptoms. Throughout all the follow-up visits (2 years, 4 years and 7 years) fewer than 10% of the people taking part in the study were noted as receiving any medication for their depression.
The study also showed that adults over the age of 65 who exhibited high levels of symptoms during their follow up visits had a higher risk of heart disease or stroke, leading the researchers to conclude that depression could indeed be a risk factor. For this reason, they suggest that closer attention should be paid by doctors to older people in their care who have symptoms of depression.

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