This risk factor is almost as bad for your heart as obesity
In a recent study, German researchers looked at data from more than 3,400 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74, analyzing their health over a 10-year period. The study looked at the four most common heart disease risk factors – tobacco smoke, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol – but also added depression to the mix.
“Our investigation 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,” said lead researcher Dr. Karl-Heinz Ladwig in a press release.
Depression accounts for 15 percent of cardiovascular deaths, which, according to the study, is exceeded only by smoking and hypertension (high blood pressure).
“Our data shows that depression has a medium effect size within the range of major, non-congenital risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Ladwig added.
The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people worldwide struggle with depression.
While chronic depression may primarily be a mental or emotional disorder, it can have a profound physical impact, as well.
Mary DeClue, an advanced practice nurse who specializes in behavioral health at Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill., explains that depression symptoms can, among other things, cause sleeping and eating disturbances that can add stress to the body and affect physical health.
“Some have problems sleeping too much, and others have problems sleeping at all,” says DeClue. “Appetite may vary – either too much or too little. Weight, then, correlates with loss or increase of appetite.”
DeClue points out that anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression.
Ladwig and his associates conclude that a diagnostic investigation of depression should be standard when caring for patients at high-risk of heart disease.
Chronic depression is treatable with help from medical professionals.
“Depression affects the whole person – body, mind and spirit,” says DeClue.
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