Can statins reduce the risk of depression in the first year after stroke?

February 12, 2018

A big part of stroke recovery is learning to accept that things might not be exactly the same. We are constantly learning about new ways to overcome the everyday challenges presented by stroke recovery. However, things aren’t always easy. And when things start to get difficult, depression can affect even the most dedicated of us.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A structured program focused on recovery is the best approach to post-stroke rehabilitation. But a little extra support might come in the form of statins. Statins are a drug that lower hypercholesterolemia (high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol) in patients at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Statins for post-stroke depression

The use of statins in treating post-stroke depression is somewhat controversial because a link between high cholesterol and depression has yet to be proven. Researchers from institutes in the UK and Korea have shown that, when prescribed immediately following a stroke, statins could reduce the risk of depression by up to 45% in the first year of recovery. This does demonstrate a potential for statin use in the prevention of post-stroke depression. However, some questions remain. For example, ‘what does cholesterol have to do with depression?’ In this study, more than 400 patients were already being treated with statins for hypercholesterolemia. Do statins treat this, the depression, or both? For now, this question remains unanswered, but one thing is clear. Statins, at least in some patients, might be beneficial in the first year post-stroke. This study only examined the effects in patients with high cholesterol, and further studies need to determine if statin use can help patients with normal cholesterol levels.

So when you start to feel the gnaw of depression, it’s important that you don’t overlook the things that could help get you over that hurdle. Discuss the potential benefits of statin use with your doctor. Depression isn’t something you need to face alone.

The first author of the original article was Dr. Jae-Min Kim,  Department of Psychiatry, Chonnam National University Medical School, Gwangju, Republic of Korea.



What you can do with this information

Editorial note:

The beneficial effect of statins on depression is often overlooked. Discuss the pros and cons of statin use with your doctor.

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