Depression a 'powerful' risk factor for heart disease in young women
June 19th, 2014
08:54 AM ET

Depression a 'powerful' risk factor for heart disease in young women

Young women are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die of heart disease if they suffer from depression, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at 3,237 patients with suspected or established heart disease who were undergoing coronary angiography – a medical procedure used to diagnose narrowing in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. On the same day of the procedure, the patients answered nine questions assessing their state of mind.

If the patient was experiencing moderate to severe depression, and was under 55 years old, researchers found she had double the chance of experiencing a heart attack in the next few years. Depressed women under 55 were also twice as likely to have heart disease or to die from any cause during that time period than those who were not depressed. Men and those women older than 55 with depression did not show the same increased risk.

Depression is as powerful a risk factor for heart disease as diabetes and smoking, study author Dr. Amit Shah, a cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta, concluded.

Shah believes there's a biological reason as to why depression harms young females’ hearts in particular. Mechanisms underlying the association of depression and heart disease could be inflammation or hormonal regulation, the study author wrote. However, the exact reasons for the link are still unclear.

“When people get depressed, they stop taking care of themselves. And when they stop taking care of themselves, they get sick," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, who was not involved the study.

On the other hand, when sick people don’t take care of themselves, they can also become depressed.

“Which comes first is always a challenge to know,” Steinbaum said.

Previous research supports Shah’s data. A 2012 study with nearly 7,000 U.S. adults conducted by John Hopkins University concluded that women aged 17 to 39 with depression had a significantly higher risk of ischemic heart disease death.

Patients with cardiac disease risk factors such as high blood pressure or obesity usually know about their condition and get professional medical treatment. That’s not the case with depression, Shah says.

“Part of the additional hurdle is the stigma in seeking care in the first place," Shah said. He hopes his study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, will help patients overcome the stigma of depression so it doesn’t get in the way of their health.

Some people don’t even recognize that they are depressed. Steinbaum recommends asking yourself: Am I bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Do I feel little interest or pleasure in doing things I normally enjoy?

“If you answer yes to either of those questions, then you might really have a problem with depression.”

“For many people, antidepressants are very beneficial and help them get rid of the depression,” said Dr. Charles L. Raison, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. But he says treating the depression will not make cardiac disease disappear.

Yet there is something that can reduce your depression and your heart health, Raison says: “Because you don’t know that treating one will treat the other, you want to treat both. The way to treat both is exercise.”

Post by:
Filed under: Conditions • Depression • Heart • Mental Health

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. UriNation

    I get depressed when I read about depression.

    June 19, 2014 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. John

    "On the other hand, when sick people don’t take care of themselves, they can also become depressed."

    Really? So, it's like:

    "Doc, I was feeling pretty darn good about my chronic sickness, until one day I decided, just for laughs and giggles, to stop taking care of myself. And, you know what, I started feeling depressed after that! Can you believe it?! "

    June 19, 2014 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jayne Sargent

      Ignorance must truly be bliss.

      June 22, 2014 at 04:41 | Report abuse |
  3. Joanne

    Depression or antidepressants?

    June 20, 2014 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. still_awake

    This was a correlational study. I wonder if heart disease causes depression?

    June 20, 2014 at 04:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hmmm

      Yes, actually. In the book they sent home with me after my 1st heart attack at age 43, they explained that because having a heart problem redefines your life, you can get depressed after a heart attack. I did, until I found my purpose again.

      June 25, 2014 at 00:52 | Report abuse |
  5. whodathunk

    Certainly it is depressing to watch cops shooting mental patients as a cure for depression and other mental illnesses. So, therefore, those of us who's hearts are hurt by the new therapy called cops with guns and malice of cure-all intent for the mentally ill have reason to protest this assault to the hearts and health of all and any. Even more is seeing this obvious link of therapy by cops and their guns and violence for the mentally ill being ignored by the media and those whom job it is to stop such discriminatory, deadly, and harmful practices. Especially disturbing is the media overlooking such a deadly link between cops and the mentally ill, since the media contributes a great deal to the harmful bias, prejudice, and discrimination against those deemed mentally ill.

    June 20, 2014 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jayne Sargent

    The people commenting above obviously have never experienced true Major Depression. I have, since my teens. It's not just being sad or in a bad mood. It's a debilitating, long term condition that one can't just "snap out of." I have no doubt it goes hand in hand with heart disease. I worked full time for 30 years, have a successful marriage and healthy law abiding adult son, but I've also been treated for depression since the early 70's. It doesn't just go away on its own. It is not caused by guns or the media, although news reports don't help. It is a DISEASE. Believe me, if I could just "cheer up" I would. It's a horrible way to live when every day is a constant battle to just get out of bed and act like you feel normal. Without medication and therapy, I would have been dead long ago. It's sad that mental illness is ignored or laughed off in America. It is a VERY real.problem.

    June 22, 2014 at 04:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • whodathunk

      Try dielectic sarcasm – sometimes it works for a laugh – occassionally it makes people think.

      In any case – therapy by cops and their guns is lots of fun sure to lift the spirits (not).

      June 22, 2014 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
    • cats in space

      maybe some offensive comments have been removed, but I thought the comments were all ok and I've had bipolar disorder for over 30 years. Some people advocate that cops have mental illness data in their computers (oh, so I was PROMISED privacy when I got treatment years ago, now people are going to take it away because of my label???) but to me, that just means people like me are at more risk of cop homicide. Family dispute? Shoot the bipolar lady. Traffic stop, she got confused and called 911 for help? Shoot the bipolar lady. and so on.

      June 22, 2014 at 22:38 | Report abuse |
    • Jeanne

      I totally agree with you it is definitely a very real issue and one that should not be taken lightly.

      June 30, 2014 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • Charmingtxgirl

      Everything you said is true. You don't just "snap" out of it. My father killed himself & one year before he did that, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. With medication, therapy, church, & my family, I feel much better & realize we both have an illness! One day I hope to understand it, but until then I take it one day at a time.

      July 24, 2014 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
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      I feel I'm born to live with it.

      October 19, 2014 at 00:45 | Report abuse |
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    The Medical Cartels hate this post;

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    June 23, 2014 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Nursalam Aprian

    I hope my heart always health,, and I don't want depression.... Ccozz I love my Life, thanks for gave information to us.

    June 30, 2014 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jehangir Hospital

    Thanks for providing this valuable information to us. Young women are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die of heart disease if they suffer from depression. Depression is as powerful a risk factor for heart disease as diabetes and smoking.

    July 22, 2014 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Hey, Thanks for providing this useful information. This a topic of which every one should be aware of.

    April 29, 2015 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Add co-occurring disorders into the mix, and dangers increase exponentially. Appreciate the insights.

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