Treating Depression May Thwart Heart Disease

Treating Depression May Thwart Heart DiseaseTreating Depression May Thwart Heart Disease

Heart disease and depression are both serious and prevalent conditions; mounting evidence infers that they are connected. Depression has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing heart disease later in life. A new study looks in depth at this relationship.

Treating depression early might help reduce the chances of developing cardiac problems.

An estimated 6.7% of American adults suffered one or more major depressive episodes in 2014. Additionally, around 1 in 4 deaths in the US is attributed to some form of heart disease.

Depression and heart disease are not only incredibly common; they also appear to be intrinsically linked.

After a heart attack or heart failure, some individuals who have never been troubled by depression can find themselves under its spell. Conversely, people who have suffered from depression seem more likely to develop heart problems later in life.

A new study, carried out at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, UT, investigates this relationship further.

Researcher Heidi May, PhD, a cardiovascular epidemiologist, wanted to examine whether treating depression reduces the chances of developing heart disease.

An additional question that May set out to answer was whether brief encounters with depression still have the ability to increase the risk of heart problems further down the line.

To investigate these questions, May delved into data from Intermountain Healthcare’s depression registry, containing information from more than 100,000 patients. This information source proved essential for the success of the research, as May explains: “There’s little publicly available data about this question.”

From the database, the team used data from the 7,550 patients who had filled in at least two depression questionnaires over the course of 2 years. The individuals were then divided into four groups: never depressed, no longer depressed, remained depressed and became depressed.

 Prompt Treatment

The patients were followed to observe whether they later developed cardiovascular problems including stroke, heart attack or heart failure.

The results showed that individuals who were no longer depressed had similar rates of heart disease as those who had never been depressed (4.6% and 4.8%, respectively). However, in the group of individuals who had become depressed during the study or remained depressed, the rates of cardiac disease were higher (6% and 6.4%, respectively).

In other words, treatment for depression resulted in a decreased level of cardiovascular risk that was roughly equivalent to someone who did not have depression.

May summarizes the results as follows: “Our study shows that prompt, effective treatment of depression appears to improve the risk of poor heart health.”

The findings were presented at the 2016 American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions in Chicago, IL, on April 2.