New research underscores link between depression and poor heart health

By June Shannon Heart News   |   26th Mar 2018

People with symptoms of depression may have a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation; a common heart rhythm disorder that can lead to heart failure and stroke – new study

Monday, 26 March 2018

New research has suggested that people with symptoms of depression may have a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation; a common heart rhythm disorder that can lead to heart failure and stroke.

The study, which was presented at a major cardiovascular scientific meeting organised by the American Heart Association recently, revealed that people with symptoms of depression and those taking anti-depressant medication had a more than 30 per cent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF) than those with no symptoms of depression and people not taking medication for depression.

The results suggest an association between two very common disorders, a finding that demands further research and greater awareness among both doctors and patients, researchers said.

According to lead investigator Prof Parveen Garg, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “If our findings are affirmed in future studies, especially those that formally assess for clinical depression, then we will need to see if treating depression may, in fact, lower the risk for atrial fibrillation.”

The findings stem from the national Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) study, which involved more than 6,600 people from various ethnic groups. The participants’ average age was 62. They had no known heart disease at the onset of the study and were followed for 13 years.

 

Treating depression is important for many reasons including cardiovascular health.

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The researchers explained that exactly how depression disrupts heart function remained unclear, but several possible mechanisms have been suggested. These include increased levels of inflammation as well as elevated levels of certain hormones that directly or indirectly interfere with the heart’s ability to stay in a normal rhythm.

The new findings add further credence to the notion that mental health and heart health are closely intertwined, underscoring previous research showing an association between depression and heart disease.

“Clinicians and patients should be aware that depression has been shown in several studies to be a risk factor for heart disease in general and, in this study, for atrial fibrillation as well,” Prof Garg said. “Treating depression is important for many reasons including cardiovascular health.”

Commenting on the study Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation said, “we know that there are many factors that increase the risk of Atrial fibrillation such as hypertension, obesity and alcohol use. This study suggests people with depression also have higher levels of AF, the mechanism of which is unclear but is something physicians need to be aware of as people with AF have a risk of developing stroke.”

 

“This study suggests people with depression also have higher levels of AF, the mechanism of which is unclear but is something physicians need to be aware of as people with AF have a risk of developing stroke.”

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director , Irish Heart Foundation

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