Earlier this week, Circulation, an online journal published the newest findings of a 12-person panel of experts who went on record determining that depression should be listed as a risk for heart disease along with already known risk factors such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.
The recommendation was made to the American Heart Association (AHA), after Robert M. Carney, PhD, and Kenneth E. Freedland, PhD, both professors of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and ten other experts in the field performed an extensive review of hundreds of studies in the scientific literature that looked specifically at correlating depression and heart attacks and eventual death from heart disease.
Doctors Caney and Freeland have been studying the effects of depression on heart disease for more than 25 years when they reported the increased risk of more severe cardiac problems in patients with pre-existing heart disease, who also were diagnosed with depression. A very high percentage of all the studies they conducted since beginning in 1988, support their findings that depression is a risk factor for death in people with heart disease.
Unlike definitive findings that are found when obese people lose a significant amount of weight in a healthy way, or people who successfully quit smoking or manage to lower their blood pressure; there are very few studies that support lowered risk of heart disease in people who undergo treatment for depression.
A large cause for this might be that for most people who suffer from depression don’t ‘quit’ depression the way they quit smoking. Even with proper treatment, depression isn’t known to ‘lower’ the way blood pressure lowers when treated properly. And as with many psychological issues, neither cause nor effect is as clear cut and easy to draw conclusions from.
Carney and Freeland are undaunted, however. They are ready to begin new studies with different approaches to treatment for depression so they can determine if these new approaches conclusively show a decrease in lowering heart problems. For now, it is clear that treating depression might effectively impact both the health and quality of life of a person and so, the commitment to continued research lives on.
Citations Circulation, Feb. 24, 2014
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!