Depression is not only difficult to live. In older patients, it could also increase the risk of developing heart disease. Researchers are now trying to decrypt the mental mechanisms that would promote these conditions.
Many have suggested that the heart diseases are more frequent in the depressed. A US study in more than 4 000 elderly in addition of 65 years, free of any disease of the heart, has just confirmed. The results are alarming: the symptoms of depression – sadness, loss of desire to live, irritability, loneliness… – increase up to 40% the probability of coronary artery disease.
More deaths among the more depressed
For 6 years, 4 493 volunteers participating in this study are are subject to a battery of questions on their mood and their activities during the past week. The responses showed a score on a scale of 0 to 30 depression. At the same time, they have undergone medical examinations to see whether or not they retained a good physical shape.
Previous calibrations revealed than the score on this scale in General 8 in depressed patients. Most senior citizens involved in this investigation showed, a score between 6 and 8.
The main result of the study was to show that an increase of 5 points of the score on the scale of depression was 15% the probability of a condition of the coronary arteries of the heart, such as angina or myocardial infarction. The risk of death increased him also in the same proportions as soon as signs of depression (increase of 16% in mortality for a rise of 5 score points) appeared.
In total, compared with the Americans over 65 years who have kept their joie de vivre, coronary heart diseases were 1.4 times more common in the more depressed participants and their probability of dying was increased from 60%.
The relationship is not necessarily direct
But, how can a disease of the mind as depression the development of heart disease? In fact, this study proves nothing that depression is directly involved in the development of lesions of the coronary arteries. Of course, this is conceivable theoretical because it is known that stress can influence the deposition of fat in the vessel wall and that it can induce a contraction of some arteries. In addition, the role of psychological factors in heart disease and myocardial infarction is now allowed.
But, it is also quite possible that depressed patients neglect to take into account parameters such as physical exercise, which play a role of protection important to heart diseases, whether they are less attentive to their diet or follow less well. All factors that could transform a latent disease in a real disease. In this hypothesis, the fact that the victims of overweight or physically inactive participants were, on average, more depressed in this survey. Smoking, if deleterious effects on the arteries, may also influence: it should also be noted that smokers were more sensitive to the “blues” in this study.
What impact for the antidepressant treatment?
The next step is to determine if antidepressant treatment limits the occurrence of heart disease. Two clinical studies should be undertaken soon in older Americans.