Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer. About 600,000 Americans have a stroke every year, and 167,000 die from it. Men who suffer from depression and anxiety are more than three times as likely to die from a stroke as other men. But depressed and anxious men are not much more likely to have non-fatal strokes.
Researchers studied 2000 men aged 49 to 64 who were followed for 14 years.They found the men with depression or similar mental illness were much more likely to have fatal strokes, while the men who did not die from their strokes were very slightly more likely to have depression. Out of the 2,000 men, 137 had strokes and 17 men died from them. Men who had strokes were also more likely to be older, heavier, to smoke and to have higher blood pressure. The worse the depression and anxiety as reported by standardized tests, the higher the risk of a fatal stroke.
Depressed people often don't take medicines as prescribed, so some of the men may not be taking medicines for high blood pressure, thereby increasing their risk for stroke. There could also be physical changes in the autonomic nervous system, which controls heart rate and the contraction of blood vessels. Such changes have been seen in depression and could contribute to the severity of stroke or heart attack. Doctors need to take more care to screen their patients for mental illness.