Depression as a precursor to heart problems


Science Daily (Nov. 11, 2011)— The negative effects of depression in young people on the health of their hearts may be stronger than previously recognized. Depression or a history of suicide attempts in people younger than 40, especially young women, markedly increases their risk for dying from heart disease, results from a nationwide study have revealed.
The results are  in the November 2011 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

“This is the first study looking at depression as a risk factor for heart disease specifically in young people,” says senior author Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health

“We’re finding that depression is a remarkable risk factor for heart disease in young people. Among women, depression is a more important indicator  than traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, obesity and diabetes .”

The female deaths in 2006 were evaluated as to whether they were depressed, or not.  The researchers  found that women with depression or a history of attempted suicide had a three times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 14 times higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease (heart attack). The corresponding figures for men were 2.4 times higher risk for cardiovascular disease and 3.5 times higher risk for ischemic heart disease.
Using antidepressants was not considered  a risk factor because less than six percent of those with depression or with a history of attempted suicide reported their use, and no cardiovascular-related deaths occurred in that subgroup.
The researchers also considered the possibility that depressed people may have more lifestyle-related risk factors such as smoking and poor diet but found that a significant link to heart disease risk came from depression and suicide attempts, even after correcting statistically for unhealthy behaviors.