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A Journal on Internal Medicine

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Panminerva Medica 2012 September;54(3):161-70

language: English

Cerebrovascular diseases and depression: epidemiology, mechanisms and treatment

Göthe F. 1, 2, Enache D. 1, Wahlund L. O. 1, 2, Winblad B. 1, 2, Crisby M. 1, Lökk J. 1, 2, Aarsland D. 1, 2, 3

1 Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden;
2 Geriatric Department, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden;
3 Centre for Age-related Medicine, Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway


Both cerebrovascular disease (CVD) and depression are common conditions in the elderly, and there is emerging evidence of a bi-directional relationship: 1) depression can cause CVD and stroke, transient ischemic attack; and 2) subcortical CVD are associated with increased risk for depression. The frequency of poststroke depression is highest during the first month after the stroke, but remains high even after several years. Depression is associated with poorer functional prognosis and higher mortality after stroke. There is good evidence that severity of functional impairment, high neuroticism, low social support as well as genetic factors are associated with an increased risk for post-stroke depression. Deep white matter lesions are the most consistent imaging correlate of depression. Potential mechanisms mediating the association between depression and CVD are neuroinflammation and HPA-axis activation, fronto-subcortical circuit lesions, and serotonergic dysfunction. Antidepressants have demonstrated effect on poststroke depression in meta-analyses, and such drugs as well as vitamin B can reduce the incidence of depression in stroke survivors. In addition, serotonergic drugs may strengthen poststroke motor and cognitive recovery, potentially through restorative mechanisms. Psychotherapeutic strategies such as problem-solving therapy seem to be effective. There is emerging evidence that treatment of cardiovascular disease and risk-factors can reduce the risk for late-life depression, but more studies are needed to test this hypothesis.

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