It’s been a while since researchers discovered depression is a key predictor of heart disease — even of not surviving a heart attack. More and more, though, studies are revealing that depression can be a precursor to coronary heart disease (CHD)— especially for women. We know this because researchers at Columbia University recently reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that depression may actually lead to heart disease, as well as increase the odds of a heart attack in women with existing CHD.
The most recent study to link depression and heart disease is based on the Nurses’ Health Study which tracked 63,000 women between 1992-2004. Though none had signs of heart disease at the start of the study, about 8% were diagnosed with serious depression. It was these women who were more than twice as likely to die suddenly from a heart attack.
A growing body of investigative work is exposing the underlying causes of the depression-heart disease link: Some point to poor adherence to medical regimens (such as diabetics who are non-compliant with home glucose monitoring), alterations in hormone levels, and increased risk for arrhythmia, while others suggest that obesity, tobacco use, and physical inactivity play key roles.
While causes may vary, the most proactive step you can take, both to defeat depression and to halt heart disease, is to make the lifestyle changes your emotions and heart need to be balanced and healthy. This means: eating optimally, de-stressing, exercising regularly, and integrating social support into your life. In the next article, I’ll tell you more about how foods you choose can combat depression, while EmpowHer expert, Larry Scherwitz, PhD (who is also my husband), will give you the lifestyle insights you need to take charge of this emerging risk factor for heart disease.
Copyright © 2009 by Deborah Kesten, MPH
Deborah Kesten, MPH, and Larry Scherwitz, PhD, are international lifestyle and health researchers and Certified Wellness and Cardiac coaches.