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Understanding the Connection Between Depression and Stroke

By: | Tags: , , , , , , | June 20th, 2023

By TeleSpecialists psychiatrist, Dr. Kristina Bedynerman

Strokes are a debilitating disease that can cripple the body and sometimes cause irreparable damage. Aphasia, loss of certain bodily functions, and memory loss are all potentially caused by a stroke. While it is known that strokes cause physical harm, they also can result in mental and emotional damage. According to the American Stroke Association, depression is a common experience for stroke survivors, and it’s often caused by biochemical changes in the brain that prohibits the survivor from feeling positive emotions.

What may not be as well known is that depression can also be a contributing factor to strokes. Establishing the relationship between depression and stroke is crucial in understanding what preventative measures to take against both. It’s essential for anyone who has had a stroke to prioritize mental and physical health on the road to recovery.

Depression Can Increase the Likelihood of a Stroke

It is well known that depression can result from a stroke, and it’s also true for the opposite: depression can lead to strokes. Symptoms of depression that can increase the likelihood of stroke include poor self-care, including changes in appetite and activity level, which can increase the possibility of physical deterioration, subsequently increasing the risk of cerebrovascular events. A lack of a healthy diet and exercise, consuming alcohol, and smoking are primary contributing factors to stroke and are often associated with depression.

The Mental and Physical Challenges of a Stroke Contribute to Depression

Depression is common among people affected by a stroke as they face an uphill climb to adjust to their new normal. While some return to their pre-stroke state after rehabilitating, many never return to that state, which can lead to depression. Studies suggest that up to 1/3 of stroke survivors develop depressive symptoms. Symptoms often become apparent around three to six months after a patient has a stroke, but sometimes patients experience depression immediately after having a stroke. The impact is due to physiological changes in the brain due to a stroke and psychosocial consequences associated with the cerebrovascular event.

In addition, individuals who have experienced a stroke are at a higher risk of experiencing depression compared to individuals who have not. A third of stroke survivors experience depressive symptoms associated with poorer outcomes and increased mortality.

Psychiatric Evaluations Can Help Prevent Depression in Stroke Survivors

Individuals affected by a stroke can benefit from a psychiatric evaluation as a preventative measure against depression. Data suggests that early detection as part of a multi-professional approach improves outcomes in stroke survivors and provides better quality of care. A psychiatric evaluation can provide the necessary early screening for depression. If depression is suspected, psychiatrists can provide early intervention and treatment, which studies suggest leads to improved outcomes in post-stroke recovery.

Helpful Resources for Patients

Up to 80% of strokes are preventable with a combination of healthy lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise, and medication, and such practices can help individuals experiencing depression avoid getting a stroke. In addition, the American Stroke Association offers many resources, like an audiocast, fact sheet, and informational video to help post-stroke patients identify and treat depression. It’s recommended that stroke patients experiencing depression be treated by their primary care physician, a neurologist, or a psychiatrist.

Nattasha Acevedo, MD

Dr. Acevedo received her medical degree from the Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico and did her neurology residency at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. She went on to do a clinical neurophysiology fellowship at Emory School of Medicine in Atla nta, Georgia and then joined private practice in Fort Myers, Florida. She currently resides in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She likes running, paddle boarding and spending time with family.

Bernadette Borte, MD

Dr. Borte received her medical degree from St. Matthew’s University School of Medicine in Grand Cayman. She completed her neurology residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa. Her areas of interest include inpatient neurology and acute stroke. When not working, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. Dr. Borte joined the TeleSpecialist family in March of 2019.

Mazen Almidani, MD

Dr. Almidani is board certified in pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics and board certified in epilepsy, as well as neurology with special  qualification in child neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.  Dr. Almidani is happily married with 4 children. His oldest son has autism and his daughter has complicated seizures; both were a drive for him to become a neurologist. Dr. Almidani enjoys soccer, running and spending time with his family. He is very involved with his sons’ therapy and helping with daily challenges. He is double board certified in Pediatric and Adult Neurology and Epilepsy. He sees children and adults. He also participates in charities for children in Syria who may be underprivileged and/or affected by the war. Dr. Almidani joined TeleSpecialists in August 2020.

Amanda Cheshire, MD

Dr. Cheshire received her medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville, Kentucky. She completed her neurology residency at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. She did a fellowship in neurophysiology at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Cheshire is double board certified in neurology and clinical neurophysiology. She enjoys traveling, reading and music. She currently resides in Viera, Florida.  Dr. Cheshire joined TeleSpecialists in June 2019.

Jessica Floyd, MD

Dr. Floyd completed her neurology residency at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida followed by fellowship training in clinical neurophysiology with focus in EEG and epilepsy at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. She has particular interest in hospital neurology and patient education as well as the blossoming specialty of lifestyle medicine. She strives to take advantage of every encounter with patients and medical staff to empower them to do their own research into how daily thoughts, choices, and habits can add up to create greater and longer-lasting brain and neurologic health for ourselves and our loved ones. She lives in Florence, South Carolina with her awesome husband of 13 plus years and three beautiful children. She is an avid yogi, astrologer, and lover of food and all things neurology! Dr. Floyd joined the TeleSpecialist family in July 2017.

Nancy Futrell, MD

Dr. Futrell received her medical degree from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. She also did her neurology residency at the University of Utah as well as a research fellowship in cerebral vascular disease at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. She currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has authored 2 books and 50 peer reviewed papers. 

Rebecca Jimenez-Sanders, MD

Dr. Jimenez Sanders received her undergraduate degree from Emory University, and her medical degree from the San Juan Bautista School of Medicine in Puerto Rico. She completed her neurology residency at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, where she also did a specialized headache medicine and facial pain fellowship. She currently resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband and her two daughters. She is also fluent in Spanish and Italian languages, and enjoys photography, baking, boating, and biking.

Cory Lamar, MD

Dr. Lamar received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed his internship and residency at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Following residency, he completed a clinical fellowship in neurophysiology, with a concentration in epilepsy. He currently resides in Florida and enjoys outdoor activities.

Clifford Meyers, MD

Dr. Meyers received his medical degree from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and his MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. He completed his neurology residency at the University of Rochester, where he also did a neurophysiology fellowship. Dr. Meyers resides in Webster, New York with his wife and daughter. When not doing teleneurology, he enjoys playing sports with his wife and daughter.

Tao Tong, MD

Dr. Tong received her medical degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Florida. She completed her neurology residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, where she also did a neuromuscular/EMG fellowship.  She currently resides in College Station, Texas. Dr. Tong is married with two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading.

Shubhangi Chumble, MD

Dr. Chumble attended BJ Medical School. She is a board certified neurologist with a subspeciality interest in sleep medicine. Dr. Chumble did her residency at Howard University in Washington DC and has practiced neurology since 2001 in private and corporate settings. She lives in Melbourne, Florida and loves the sunshine state. Her hobbies include yoga, meditation, cooking , traveling and meeting new people. She also loves to do stained glass, pottery and painting. She joined TeleSpecialists in June 2019.