Most women can relate to depression on some level. Many of us have experienced either temporary depression such as the baby blues or depression caused by monthly hormonal changes. Others may have worked through full-blown clinical depression and come out the other side healthy and strong. There may be many women who simply suffer in silence and do not seek treatment. In doing so, they may be putting their long-term heart health at risk. Studies indicate that not only does depression interfere with your day to day activities, but it may also adversely affect your heart health. In striving to prevent heart disease, depression is a risk factor which is often overlooked.
I always thought of depression and heart disease as two separate and distinct illnesses. It turns out, this is a misconception. Depression increases your risk of heart disease. According to the Mayo clinic, the risk of developing heart disease is increased by as much as two to three times in persons suffering from depression. Women bear the brunt of this increased risk since depression tends to affect women disproportionately (2-1) over men. One study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Administration (VA) found that depression may be a greater risk factor and indicator for developing heart disease than previously thought and may even be a greater risk factor than family history.
The Washington University/VA study is an ongoing study involving 1,200 male twins who served in the military. The participants were first assessed in 1992 and again in 2005 for a variety of conditions. All participants were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study. During the course of the study, participants who were depressed were found to have doubled the risk of developing heart disease compared to non-depressed participants. This was found to be true even between individual twin sets where one twin was depressed and yet the other twin did not suffer from depression.