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Hypertension linked to depression after stroke

February 1, 2012

In a newly published study, a group of our researchers identify a link between hypertension and post-stroke depression.

"Depression and hypertension have been linked before in non-stroke patients. This study has taken those findings one step further, and has strengthened the literature linking hypertension and depressive disorders in stroke patients as well," says Dr. Gayla Tennen, geriatric and medical psychiatrist at Sunnybrook and lead author on the paper.

Post-stroke depression (PSD) can negatively affect stroke recovery by worsening cognitive and functional impairment. It can also increase mortality, and have a negative affect on a patient's emotional well-being and quality of life.

A total of 102 participants were recruited for the study within four months of an ischemic stroke, and were assessed for stroke severity and cognitive ability. Five vascular risk factors (VRFs) were examined in the patients - diabetes, smoking, hyperlipidemia, obesity, and hypertension.

The researchers found that 37% of the stroke patients studied had depressive symptoms. Of those patients, 90% also had hypertension.

"Hypertension may then not only relate to risk of stroke, but may also contribute to the risk of depression after a stroke through the development of small-vessel brain disease, resulting in damage to specific brain circuits involved in mood," says Dr. Nathan Herrmann, our head of geriatric psychiatry.

The other four risk factors studied were not found to increase risk of PSD. The study also found that regardless of the number of risk factors a patient had, the risk for depressive symptoms was not affected.