The Link Between Depression and Your Heart Health: New Study Finds Treating Depression Helps Your Heart

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Depression also has a link to your heart health. In fact, new research from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute suggests that recognizing your depression symptoms and effectively treating these symptoms can reduce your chance of having a stroke, heart failure, a heart attack or death.

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“Our study shows that prompt, effective treatment of depression appears to improve the risk of poor heart health,” said Heidi May, PhD, a cardiovascular epidemiologist with the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “Knowing that alleviating the symptoms of depression reduces a person’s risk of heart disease in the short term can help care providers and patients commit more fully to treating the symptoms of depression.
 
She added: “The key conclusion of our study is: If depression isn’t treated, the risk of heart complications increases significantly.”
 
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Dr. May and her team found answers by studying data compiled in Intermountain Healthcare’s depression registry, a database of more than 100,000 patients.
 
“There’s little publically-available data about this question,” Dr. May said. “But now with the help of Intermountain’s depression registry, we have the ability to start answering some of these difficult questions.”
 
What did the study consist of?
 
The Intermountain Medical Center Heart research team compiled information from 7,550 patients who completed at least two depression questionnaires over the course of one to two years.
 
Patients were categorized based on the results of their survey as never depressed, no longer depressed, remained depressed, or became depressed. Following each patient’s completion of the last questionnaire, patients were followed to see if they had any major cardiovascular problems such as a stroke, heart failure, heart attack or death.
 
At the conclusion of the study, 4.6 percent of patients who were no longer depressed had a similar occurrence of major cardiovascular complications as those who had no depression at all (4.8 percent).
 
Those who remained depressed, however, and those who became depressed throughout the study, had increased occurrences of major cardiovascular problems — their rates were 6 and 6.4 percent, respectively. Treatment for depression resulted in a decreased risk of cardiovascular risk that was similar to someone who didn’t have depression.
 
So what do you need to do? Get treated.
 
As for the practical application of this study, Dr. May said the research indicates that effective treatment for depression decreases the risk of having cardiovascular problems in the short term, but further study is needed to identify specifically what that treatment should include.
 
“Though we need to do further research to find out more, we know enough to say that people need to get treated,” says Dr. May. “We can’t stress the importance of treatment enough. If people get treated, their risk of having heart complications decreases significantly.”