Doctors may want to give stroke victims antidepressants right away instead of waiting until they develop depression, a common complication, new research suggests.
The findings may lead to an expanded use for antidepressants. Someday high-risk people like stroke patients might take the drugs before suffering depression — just as people now take cholesterol drugs to prevent heart attacks, the lead author said.
The researchers gave low doses of the antidepressant Lexapro to stroke patients. The patients on the drug were 4.5 times less likely to develop depression than patients taking a dummy pill.
More than 700,000 Americans suffer strokes each year and more than one-third will develop depression in the next two years. Stroke patients with depression recover more slowly and are more likely to die, according to previous research.
"We showed you could in fact prevent the development of depression after stroke," said Dr. Robert Robinson of the University of Iowa who led the study. "I hope I don't have a stroke, but if I do, I would certainly want to be placed on an antidepressant."
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