Scientists find a surprising link among heart disease, depression, and inflammation

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Scientists from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital have made an interesting discovery.

They’ve found a link between heart disease, specifically coronary artery disease (the kind that can lead to heart attacks), major depression (a severe form of sadness that affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities), and a condition known as cardiomyopathy (a disease that makes it hard for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body).

Their study, shared on April 5 in the journal Nature Mental Health, hints that there might be a way to tackle both heart disease and depression together to help prevent cardiomyopathy.

This could be done by using a mix of medications that already exist for heart disease and depression.

These medications might work by lowering inflammation, a response by your body that can actually cause problems if it happens too much.

Lea Davis, a leading scientist in this study, explains that ongoing, low-level inflammation could be a key factor in both depression and heart disease.

This is a big deal because it’s been noticed that a lot of people with coronary artery disease (when your heart’s blood vessels get narrow, making it harder for your heart to get enough oxygen) also struggle with major depression.

But how these two are connected on a biological level hasn’t been clear until now.

The study suggests that inflammation might be the link. Both depression and coronary artery disease have been associated with changes in how much of certain inflammation-related substances are in the body, pointing to the idea that these conditions might share a common cause.

By using a special method to look at how small genetic differences can affect the risk for both heart disease and depression, the researchers identified 185 genes that seem to play a role in both conditions.

These genes are involved in inflammation and could make a person more likely to develop cardiomyopathy if they have both depression and coronary artery disease.

Interestingly, when the team looked at health records from large databases, they noticed that people with these specific genetic markers for both depression and heart disease were actually less likely to have cardiomyopathy than those with just heart disease.

This suggests that maybe the medications given for heart disease and depression, like statins (used to lower cholesterol) and antidepressants, might help prevent cardiomyopathy by cutting down on inflammation.

This finding is a stepping stone to more research. Understanding the best way to treat these conditions could lead to better care for patients with both heart disease and depression.

Davis believes it’s crucial to think about the health of both the heart and the brain together when planning treatment.

Kritika Singh, who played a major role in the study and is now working at Novartis, and her team are hopeful. Their work shines a light on how interconnected our mental and physical health can be and opens up new possibilities for treating these complex conditions.

If you care about inflammation, please read studies about the big cause of inflammation in common bowel disease, and vitamin B may help fight COVID-19 and reduce inflammation.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about new way to halt excessive inflammation, and results showing foods that could cause inflammation.

The research findings can be found in Nature Mental Health.

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