New research published in Neurochemical Research suggests that low vitamin D levels may increase the risk of depression in stroke patients.
Post-stroke depression (PSD) is considered one of the most frequent psychiatric complications of any type of stroke and occurs in over one third of stroke survivors. PSD peaks at 3-6 months after a stroke has occurred and is suggested to be caused by the life-changing impact that a stroke has on the patient and family members or damage to brain tissue caused by stroke.
There are vitamin D receptors throughout the human body, including many major organs, that vitamin D binds to in order to exert its varied effects. Vitamin D receptors are found in the brain, the blood vessels, and the heart, indicating that vitamin D plays a role in cognitive and cardiovascular health.
Indeed, researchers have found vitamin D receptors on cells in the brain that may relate to the development of depression. . The presence of vitamin D receptors in the arteries could mean that vitamin D may be able to help reduce the incidence of blockage. Indeed, research has found a variety of mechanisms that could explain this.
Researchers in China recently explored these relationships further to see if vitamin D might relate to PSD.
They recruited 244 ischemic stroke patients who were admitted to the hospital within the first day of their stroke. The researchers measured the patients’ vitamin D levels at the start of the study and checked for development of depression and depressive symptoms six months later.
Ischemic a type of stroke that occurs when debris, such as fats and cholesterol, creates a blockage in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. This leads to a lack of blood and oxygen in the brain causing certain areas of tissue to die.
Of the 244 patients, 37.3% had depression and 24.6% had major depression. The median vitamin D level in those with depression was significantly lower at 8.3 ng/ml compared to those without depression who had a median level of 15.6 ng/ml.
The researchers found that vitamin D levels equal to or less than 11.2 ng/ml were related to PSD after adjusting for potential confounding factors.
“Additional research is needed on vitamin D supplementation to improve outcome of patients with PSD,” the researchers concluded.