At 29, Nancy Virgen never thought she would have a stroke.
"I could not feel the right side of my face and my right arm and my right leg," she said.
She also lost her sight. As she tried to recover physically, she began to suffer emotionally.
"I started getting depressed," she said. "It just was not me. I felt like it was in a dream the whole time."
A new study from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine finds stroke survivors who become depressed are three times more likely to die early and four times more likely to die from another stroke.
Up to one in three people who have a stroke develop depression. Experts say it's key to keep an eye out for changes in behavior so symptoms can be managed.
"I think it's important for patients to know that it is common to develop depression after stroke and not to disregard the symptoms," said Dr. Amytis Towfighi of USC Keck School of Medicine.
Signs can include difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, concentration problems and loss of interest in favorite activities.
Virgen faced her depression head on. She tried medication but says it was the support of her family that got her through.
"They are always calling me, checking on me, asking me if I am OK," Virgen said.
She wants other stroke victims to know their depression is real and to reach out for help like she did.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 800,000 Americans die each year from strokes.
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