When people consider their risk of heart disease, they often consider genetics, smoking, their weight, and their cholesterol levels, but not many people consider the risk that depression – a condition that affects approximately 350 million people, according to the World Health Organization – is just as serious of a risk in determining their risk for heart disease, heart attack, and death from heart related diseases. According to WebIndia123, Karl-Heinz Ladwig, professor at Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany, says that 15 percent of cardiovascular deaths are attributed to depression.
“Our study shows that the risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease due to depression is almost as great as that due to elevated cholesterol levels or obesity. That is comparable to the other risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia, obesity and smoking.”
In this particular study, the team included 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74 years and observed their development of heart disease over a period of 10 years noted that only smoking and high blood pressure had slightly higher impact on heart health. Obesity, high cholesterol and depression both had similar impact, which is concerning when most physicians are only giving patients information about obesity and cholesterol, but not monitoring their depression levels as a risk factor. Ladwig says that is concerning since the new study shows that depression should be a major part of heart-health screening and not an afterthought.
“We invested a great deal of time in this work, just due to the long observation period. Our data shows that depression has a medium effect size within the range of major, non-congenital risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. In high risk patients, the diagnostic investigation of co-morbid depression should be standard. This could be registered with simple means.”
Other studies have shown, however, that many physicians are not routinely screening patients for depression. While many efforts are being made to improve this, being aware and an advocate for your own health might seriously prevent heartache. Knowing the signs and symptoms of depression and reporting them to your physician is an excellent place to begin.
Although major clinical depression is a real illness, many factors may play into the development and manifestation of symptoms. These may be genetic, environmental, situational, and in some cases, brought about by other diseases or disorders. Although depression is more common in women, it’s important to remember that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, too. Most people associate heart disease with men, but that is a fallacy. Women are less likely to be accurately diagnosed with heart disease, but more likely to be diagnosed with depression, which may give some insight as to why so many women suffer with heart disease and many ultimately die from it.
For anyone, a sad mood that doesn’t abate after two weeks, frequent crying spells and hopelessness, a change in eating or sleeping patterns, loss of pleasure in activities that used to bring happiness, extreme fatigue, loss of interest in sex and work, and thoughts or plans of suicide warrant an immediate trip to the physician. The patient should clearly state their symptoms and that they think they are experiencing depression.
While there are many treatments, including medications, that are available for depression, it’s thought that up to two-thirds of people are not treated, many because they don’t realize that they have depression. This may be because they’ve been depressed for so long that it has become their normative way of life, and others fear the stigma that is sometimes associated with mental health disorders.
If nothing else, the study about depression and heart disease shows that our body systems are linked in intricate and direct ways that cannot be separated. Protecting your happiness could lead to heart health and vice versa.
[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]