Treating depression can strongly improve heart health

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Treating depression can strongly improve heart health

Effectively treating depression can reduce a patient’s chance of having a stroke, heart failure, a heart attack or death.

Depression is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but as a person’s depression improves — or grows worse — their risk for heart disease has remained largely unknown.

But now, a new study found that effectively treating depression can reduce a patient’s chance of having a stroke, heart failure, a heart attack or death.

In fact, effective treatment for depression can reduce a patient’s heart risks to the same level as those who never had short-term depression, the study found.

“Our study shows that prompt, effective treatment of depression appears to improve the risk of poor heart health,” said Heidi May, PhD, a cardiovascular epidemiologist with the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

“With the help of past research, we know depression affects long-term cardiovascular risks, but knowing that alleviating the symptoms of depression reduces a person’s risk of heart disease in the short term, too, can help care providers and patients commit more fully to treating the symptoms of depression,” she said.

“The key conclusion of our study is: If depression isn’t treated, the risk of cardiovascular complications increases significantly.”

The research team compiled information from 7,550 patients who completed at least two depression questionnaires over the course of one to two years.

Patients were categorized based on the results of their survey as never depressed, no longer depressed, remained depressed, or became depressed.

Following each patient’s completion of the last questionnaire, patients were followed to see if they had any major cardiovascular problems such as a stroke, heart failure, heart attack or death.

At the conclusion of the study, 4.6 percent of patients who were no longer depressed had a similar occurrence of major cardiovascular complications as those who had no depression at all (4.8 percent).

Those who remained depressed, however, and those who became depressed throughout the study, had increased occurrences of major cardiovascular problems — their rates were 6 and 6.4 percent, respectively.

Treatment for depression resulted in a decreased risk of cardiovascular risk that was similar to someone who didn’t have depression.

Because of the complex nature of depression, it’s hard to say whether depression leads to risk factors associated with cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes or a lack of exercise — or if it’s the other way around.

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News source: Intermountain Healthcare. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
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