Depression Severity May Increase Stroke and Heart Disease Risk

November 19, 2019

Patients who suffer from depression are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, but what about the risk of non-fatal cardiovascular disease events?

Patients who suffer from depression are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), but what about the risk of non-fatal cardiovascular disease events?

The risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases significantly with the severity of depression, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Sessions this month in Philadelphia.

“We found that the level of depression was strongly tied to living with heart disease and stroke, even after accounting for other factors that could impact risk,” according to an AHA statement citing study author, Yosef M. Khan, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, director of Health Informatics and Analytics for the AHA.

Usinig data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Dr. Khan and colleagues examined the relationship between depression and non-fatal CVD such as heart failure, stroke, heart attack, coronary heart disease, or angina in adults 20 years (AHA poster presentation Sa3055).

More than 11,000 adults diagnosed with depression were identified, of which approximately 1,200 had self-reported CVD.

The highest percentage of study participants reported experiencing recent episodes of mild depression (13.9%), followed by moderate (4.6%), moderate-to-severe (1.8%), and severe (0.7%).

Researchers found that each level increase in depression increased the odds of non-fatal CVD outcomes by 24 percent after adjusting for risk factors.

With an understanding of the impact of this association, researchers said that physicians can help improve patients overall health by talking about mental health and heart disease together.

“The implications of such an increase are vast,” Dr. Khan said. “By understanding the relationship and degree of impact we can properly identify, prevent, treat and create policies and strategies to help decrease cardiovascular diseases and improve lives by tackling mental health and heart disease together.”

Authors noted that more detailed studies are needed to determine whether depression causes CVD or if CVD causes depression.

For more news from the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2019 Scientific Sessions, visit our sister site Patient Care Online.