A large U.S. study has found that taking anti-depressants increases women’s risk of stroke.
The study was based on 136,293 women between the ages of 50 and 79. They were followed for an average of six years as part of the Women’s Health Initiative study. Women on anti-depressants were 45 per cent more likely to have a stroke than women not taking these medications. Stroke risk was still considered fairly low for individual women, but over large populations, the finding is significant.
It could be that depression itself raises risk of stroke, so how much risk is associated with the medications is still being studied.
Stroke risk did not vary between two major types of anti-depressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic anti-depressants (TCAs), the study found, though SSRIs were linked more strongly to hemorrhagic stroke — a type of stroke involving a bleed in the brain. Researchers were quick to point out that women who have been prescribed anti-depressants by a doctor should not stop taking them, but rather discuss with their physicians the risks and benefits.
It’s possible to reduce risk of stroke by exercising more frequently, maintaining a healthy diet, reducing blood pressure, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake, according to many stroke experts.