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Study Suggests Depression Increases Risk For Heart Disease

New research also suggests depression can lead to blood clots in limbs.

New US research has found that both short- and long-term symptoms of depression may be linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, increasing the risk of the condition for up to 15 years.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Maine, the study followed 274 older adults over a period of 15 years to explore the possible effect of long-term chronic depression on the risk of development of the condition.

Unhappy African American woman sitting in bed
Unhappy African American woman sitting in bed

Although previous research has already found that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, many of these studies have focused on baseline depressive symptoms and not the chronic nature of the condition.

During the study the researchers measured the participants' depressive and anxiety symptoms, mean arterial pressure, and cardiovascular disease status.

Long-term depression can increase heart risk for a decade

They found that both baseline and chronic depressive symptoms predict the occurrence of cardiovascular events, including chest pain, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, mini stroke and acute stroke, with short-term or baseline depressive symptoms increasing the risk of cardiovascular events for up to 15 years and chronic depressive symptoms for up to 10 years.

Medical Concept - Doctor showing heart hologram generated from tablet computer.
Medical Concept - Doctor showing heart hologram generated from tablet computer.

The finding that baseline depressive symptoms increase risk for cardiovascular events up to 15 years later also goes against a recent meta-analysis which found no relationship between depressive symptoms and future cardiovascular events over a long-term follow-up period of 15 years or longer.

Research emphasizes depression in seniors

The results, which can be found published in the Journal of Health Psychology, highlight the the importance of assessing and treating depression in older adults to reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

Anti-depressants could be linked to blood clots

Details of a separate study also released this week suggests that depression and anti-depressants may also be linked to an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Led by the University of Bristol and published in the journal Annals of Medicine, the review looked at eight observational studies with data on 960,113 participants. The researchers found that depression and each of the various classes of antidepressant medications are associated with an increased risk of VTE, a life-threatening condition in which blood clots form in the veins of the legs or lungs.

The team noted that as an observational study they cannot prove cause and effect, but added that the results do show that a relationship exists between depression, antidepressant use, and VTE, after previous studies reported mixed results.

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