Study: Depression Increases Risk of Heart Disease in Young People

The detrimental effects of depression on heart health in young people may be stronger than previously thought.

Depression or a history of attempted suicide in individuals under 40, especially in women, significantly increases the risk for dying from heart disease, according to the results of a nationwide study. The results of this study have been published in the Archives of General Psychiatry November 2011 issue .

“This is the first study looking at depression as a risk factor for heart disease specifically in young people,” said senior author Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, chair of epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. “We’re finding that depression is a remarkable risk factor for heart disease in young people. Among women, depression appears to be more important than traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, obesity and diabetes which are not common in young women.”

The researchers analyzed data from 7,641 people between the ages of 17 and 39 who participated in the NHANES-III (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey-III), a nationwide survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics between 1988 and 1994. Deaths were tracked through 2006.

What the Study Found

The study found that women with a history of depression or attempted suicide had triple the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 14 times higher risk of dying from a heart attack. The corresponding figures for men were 2.4 times higher risk for heart disease and 3 to 5  times higher risk for heart attack.

Much of the previous research into the relationship between depression and heart disease included older individuals, who typically have a larger number of heart disease risk factors as well as associated diseases which may confound the results.

This is the first study to examine the dual factors of depression along with a history of suicide attempts as a marker for future mortality from heart disease. Additionally, unlike most prior studies of depression and heart disease, major depression was examined, which was assessed with a clinical interview based on accepted diagnostic criteria, instead of using questionnaire scores for depression symptoms. The authors suggest that clinical diagnosis may be “a more robust risk indicator.”

The use of antidepressant medication wasn’t included as a risk factor due to the fact that less than six percent of individuals with depression or a history of attempted suicide reported their use, and no cardiovascular-related deaths occurred in that subgroup.

The research team also considered the possibility that depressed individual may have a greater number of lifestyle-related risk factors such as smoking and poor diet. However, they discovered a significant link to heart disease risk coming from depression and suicide attempts, even after statistical corrections for unhealthy lifestyle and  behaviors.

“Direct physiological effects of depression may play a greater role than lifestyle factors in this young population,” the authors reported.

It is thought by the researchers that depression may elevate the risk of heart disease through physiological mechanisms, such as decreased heart rate variability, higher levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and inflammation.

“This is a group that normally should be low risk,” Vaccarino says. “Studying these individuals more intensively could be important for understanding how depression affects the heart.” The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Recognizing Depression

In light of this new research, it becomes even more imperative to recognize and treat depression our our children and young adults. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, please make an appointment and see your primary care physician or a qualified mental health professional. Treating depression early could literally mean the difference between life and death – now and in the future.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterized by the loss of interest or pleasure in most previously enjoyed activities, as well as a depressed or sad mood felt most of the day, nearly everyday. It can be felt as hopelessness, feeling empty, or tearful. Perspective is also often altered, and the person suffering from depression may view life differently, and seem isolated from the rest of the world – unable to make a connection. Along with this, signs of depression usually include some of the following:

  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling physically slow, agitated, or restless to the degree that others begin to notice
  • Physical complaints such as headaches, joint pains and stomach aches
  • Low self-esteem, feeling worthless or excessively guilty
  • Low libido or diminished interest in sex
  • Suicidal thoughts, or continuous thoughts of death and self-harm

For a formal diagnosis of Clinical Depression to be made, most of these symptoms need to have been present most of the time for at least two weeks.

Tips for Coping With Depression

  • Regular exercise! Even if only for 30 min at a time, three days a week, a good workout will increase happiness inducing endorphins while burning the stress hormone cortisol which is associated with depression. If you do not feel motivated, or dislike exercising at first, keep going for long enough and you will definitely begin to see benefits within 3 – 6 weeks.
  • Talk it out. Talk to someone you trust, a close friend or a licensed counselor and try and come up with a plan of action. Often it is the first steps to recovery that are the most difficult, so try not to do it alone.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A poor diet depletes energy levels and a deficiency in certain nutrients (e.g. iron) can result in fatigue and feelings of depression. Ensure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs, and explore serotonin uplifting foods such as oats, turkey, milk, pasta and other carbohydrate-rich foods.
  • Set realistic goals and responsibilities. It is important to have a plan of action and to start taking responsibility for the future, but know your limits and set your goals within reason. Small steps taken consistently are better than big steps which cause you to bomb out.
  • Prioritize and learn to say no. Avoid unnecessary stress by doing what needs to be done first and learn to look after your own needs. Be careful not to allow others to overload you with their responsibilities.
  • Make a conscious effort to stop negative thoughts. Try and change these thoughts into neutral thoughts and do not indulge in pessimism. Remember that this will take time, and may be difficult at first, but it can also be life-changing. Psychotherapy can be very helpful in this regard.
  • Take action! While your symptoms of depression may make you feel like crawling into bed or existing in your pajamas and slippers all day, make a decision everyday to get up, get dressed and do something. Simply cleaning your room, going for a scenic drive or doing something creative can be uplifting and help break a bad cycle.
  • Turn to nature. One of the best ways to re-energize and uplift your spirit is to get in touch with nature. Go for a walk in the forest, a picnic in the park or a simply sit on the beach and watch a sunset.
  • Let others help you. Don’t turn down a helping hand or a comforting hug. When depression hits, you may feel like pushing people away, but this is the time you need love and affection the most. Pets are also a great source of love and comfort!
  • Help others. One often feels a loss of purpose when depressed, so regain a positive purpose by helping others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help out at an organization that could benefit from your time and skills.
  • Make a change. Change is often very invigorating and refreshing. Aim to change your life-style to a healthier one, change your negative attitude towards life, and change your job if you know that your current work makes you miserable. It need not even be a drastic change. Simply re-arranging furniture or giving a touch of paint to a dull room can go a long way to uplifting your mood – better yet, it will keep you busy.
  • Read all about it. There are many books which are very helpful in learning how to manage depression. These include books written by experts in the field – as well as books published by ordinary people with a useful or uplifting contribution to share.

Natural Remedies May Also Be Beneficial

MindSoothe is a specially formulated herbal remedy that has been successfully used in the treatment of Depression, Insomnia, OCD, SAD, Panic Disorder, and Anxiety. Being natural, with no artificial preservatives, MindSoothe is safe for adults and children (also see MindSootheJr. for children), is non-addictive and has NO SIDE EFFECTS. It has become the formula of choice by thousands of satisfied customers around the world for treating depression, insomnia, anxiety, ODD and more. MindSoothe is pharmaceutically manufactured to the highest standards and was formulated by a Clinical Psychologist.

This bears repeating: If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, please make an appointment and see your primary care physician or a qualified mental health professional. Treating depression early could literally mean the difference between life and death – now and in the future. Natural remedies are wonderful and effective, but getting the advice of a qualified medical professional should be the first thing you do.

References:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/

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About Dee Braun

Dee is an Adv. Certified Aromatherapist, Reiki Master, Adv. Color/Crystal Therapist, Herbalist, Dr. of Reflexology and single mom who is dedicated to helping others any way she can. One way she chooses to help is by offering information on the benefits and uses of natural health and healing methods for the well-being of both people and pets. Dee also teaches Aromatherapy, Reflexology and Color/Crystal Therapy at the Alternative Healing Academy

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