The Blues Can Lead to a Broken Heart
Depression has been shown to hasten hardening of arteries
(HealthDay News) -- Not just emotions but physical well-being, too, can be affected by depression.
Research published in the Archives of Psychiatry suggested that depression is associated with thickening arteries, the beginnings of cardiovascular disease. The study also found that depression that has physical symptoms, such as fatigue and loss of appetite, appears more likely to affect heart health.
"We found that mild to moderate depressive symptoms were associated with greater progression of subclinical atherosclerosis," or hardening of the arteries, the study's lead author, Jesse C. Stewart, a psychology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, told HealthDay . "In contrast, anxiety symptoms, hostility and anger were not at all related to a change in the blood vessel thickness," he added.
"In other studies, anxiety, depression, anger and hostility have all separately been linked to future risk of heart disease," Stewart said. Those studies, unlike his, focused on one negative emotion at a time, rather than looking at them jointly to see what effect they had on cardiovascular disease when combined, and if one was more detrimental than another, he said.
Ironically, depression is also quite common after a heart attack. As many as one in three people reports feeling depressed after having a heart attack, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Stewart's study included 324 adults, most just over 60 years old. The researchers measured internal carotid artery thickness at the start of the study and then again three years later.
Stewart and his colleagues found that depression with physical manifestations such as appetite changes and fatigue was associated with more hardening of the arteries. They also found that study participants who were taking antidepressants, about 5 percent of the group, had less thickening of their arteries than did those whose depression was untreated.
"Identifying the harmful aspects of emotion could lead to the identification of people who are at risk for heart disease due to their tendency to experience negative emotions and who may benefit from psychological and pharmacological intervention," Stewart said.
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the Women's Heart Program at New York University Medical Center , told HealthDay : "For too long, the medical system has amputated the head from the rest of the body. It is important for us to consider the psychological aspects of our patients' lives, because that is an important factor in our care of a patient."
One reason that Goldberg thinks people who are depressed might have higher rates of heart disease is that they're not taking care of themselves.
"People who are depressed don't adopt healthy lifestyles," she said. "They overeat, smoke more, may drink more. In addition, people who have depression have platelets that are more likely to clot."
On the Web
To learn more about treating depression, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.
HealthDay News ; Jesse C. Stewart, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director, Women's Heart Program, New York University Medical Center, New York City, author of The Women's Healthy Heart Program and spokeswoman, American Heart Association; February 2007 Archives of General Psychiatry ; American Academy of Family Physicians (www.familydoctor.org)
Feb. 29, 2008
Copyright © 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.