It seems that depression and heart disease have a rather significant link. When anything shares a path with heart disease, the world’s leading killer, we should all pay serious attention.
A new study published in “Heart” found that the combination of depression and heart disease may be far more lethal than having either one of these conditions alone.
Previous research has indicated that people who are depressed, but otherwise healthy, are more likely to develop heart disease. That link stands independent of all other risk factors. Another sad fact is that people who are depressed are more likely to die from all causes. But what has remained unclear is whether depression is more fatal for those with heart disease than it is for those without.
Researchers tracked 6,000 adults for more than five years. About one in seven of the 6,000 (15%) scored highly on a depressive symptom scale. And one in five (20%) of those with established heart disease were depressed, compared with one in seven (14%) of those without heart problems.
During the monitoring period, 170 people died. Heart attack or stroke accounted for 47 of these deaths. Those with heart disease alone were 67% more likely to die of all causes, while those who were depressed (but otherwise healthy) were twice as likely to do so as those who had neither condition.
But here’s the kicker: people with depression and heart disease were almost five times as likely to die as their healthy peers. Incredibly, combining the two completely different diseases quadrupled the risk of dying from a heart attack or a stroke.
The “why” part of this is not clear. But researchers speculate that inflammation and blood clots might play a role. But they stress that, until more is understood, doctors and loved ones should pay more attention to depression, particularly in patients with heart problems.
Depression is a tricky disease to treat and may indeed require psychotherapy and potentially pharmaceuticals. For those who have the liberty to explore alternative solutions, the following are currently the best possibilities: fish oil supplements; regular exercise; meditation; acupuncture;, St. John’s wort, SAMe, phenylalanine, 5-HTP, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; and DHEA.