Depression Plus Stress May Raise Heart Health Risks

By Don Rauf

Depression and stress can damage heart health. Put both conditions together, and it may cause a double-whammy that amplifies heart risks.

A new study has found that the depression and stress together may create a “psychosocial perfect storm.” The combination of the two factors may raise the risk of heart attack and death.

An estimated 1 in 10 Americans ages 18 and older is depressed. That figure can be as high as 1 in 3 for heart attack patients, according to the American Heart Association. Stress can also add to troubles that tax the heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overeating, physical inactivity and smoking.

Carmela Alcántara, Ph.D., a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health in New York City, led this research.

“The increase in risk accompanying high stress and high depressive symptoms was robust and consistent across demographics, medical history, medication use and health risk behaviors,” Alcántara said in a press release.

Alcántara and colleagues studied data on nearly 4,500 patients with heart disease. These patients were 45 years old or older. At the start of this study, about 6 percent said they had both high stress and depressive symptoms.

Symptoms were assessed by in-home exams and self-administered surveys. Patients noted how often they were depressed, lonely, or sad or had crying spells. They shared information about their ability to control important things in their lives, feelings of being overwhelmed and confidence in their ability to handle personal problems.

During an average six-year follow-up, these study patients had more than 1,300 deaths or heart attacks. Those in the high stress-high, depressive symptoms group faced a 48 percent higher short-term risk for death or heart attack than those in the low stress, low-depressive symptoms group.

This study found that the risk was significant only for those with —> Read More