Depression Severity Strongly Linked to Non-Fatal Cardiovascular Disease

November 13, 2019

A new study being presented next week at AHA's 2019 Scientific Sessions found a strong link between depression and non-fatal heart disease. 

Studies have shown patients with elevated depressive symptoms are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), but what about the risk of non-fatal CVD?

As a patient’s depression severity increases, their risk of having a heart attack or stroke increase significantly, according to preliminary research that will be presented at the upcoming American Heart Association (AHA) 2019 Scientific Sessions, November 16-18, in Philadelphia.

“We found that the level of depression was strongly tied to living with heart disease and stroke, even after accounting for other factors that could impact risk, including the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 and variables of age, income, education, sex and race/ethnicity,” said study author Yosef M. Khan, MD, PhD, MPH, national director of Health Informatics and Analytics for the AHA in Dallas, Texas in an AHA press release.

“We found that the level of depression was strongly tied to living with heart disease and stroke, even after accounting for other factors that could impact risk...”

Khan and colleagues examined the relationship between depression and non-fatal CVD such as heart failure, stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, or angina in US adults aged ≥20 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. (AHA poster presentation Sa3055)

More than 11 000 adults diagnosed with depression were identified, of which approximately 1200 had self-reported CVD.

The highest percentage of study participants reported experiencing recent episodes of mild depression (13.9%), followed by moderate (4.6%), moderate-to-severe (1.8%), and severe (0.7%).

Researchers found that each level increase in depression increased the odds of non-fatal CVD outcomes by 24% after adjusting for risk factors.

With an understanding of the impact of this association, researchers said that physicians can help improve patients overall health by talking about mental health and heart disease together.

“The implications of such an increase are vast,” Khan said in the AHA press release. “By understanding the relationship and degree of impact we can properly identify, prevent, treat and create policies and strategies to help decrease cardiovascular diseases and improve lives by tackling mental health and heart disease together.” 

Authors noted that more detailed studies are needed to determine whether depression causes CVD or if CVD causes depression.

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