Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 21st 2014 Contents A32
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Women under age 55 with suspected heart prob-
lems are twice as likely to have a heart attack,
require artery-opening procedures or die if they
also have depression, according to a new study.
“We can’t prove with this study that depression
causes heart disease, but we can say that these women
do worse over time,” lead author Dr Amit Shah, from
Emory University in Atlanta, told Reuters Health.
In general, depressed people are more likely to
have heart problems than people without depression,
but the exact increase in risk has varied in previous
studies, he and his colleagues write. They suspected
some of that variation was because the effect of
depression might differ in different groups of people.
For their study, the researchers looked at more
than 3,000 people who were scheduled for cardiac
catheterisation procedures to diagnose coronary artery
disease or some other suspected heart problem. Coro-
nary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in
the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
The researchers gave the patients a questionnaire
to evaluate their depression symptoms before the
procedure. Scoring ten points or higher out of a pos-
sible 27 indicates at least moderate depression.
Two of the researchers examined the results of the
catheterisations and noted whether the patients
appeared to have coronary artery disease, and if so,
how severe it was.
Over the next roughly three years, Shah’s team
kept tabs on the patients’ health with telephone inter-
views and hospital admission data.
The patients were in their early 60s, on average,
and a third were female. The researchers divided
patients into three age groups: under 55, 56 to 64
and over 65.
Almost 30 per cent of the women 55 or younger
had moderate to severe depression, according to the
questionnaires, compared to nine per cent of men
65 and older.
For the group as a whole, depression was not asso-
ciated with the chance of coronary artery disease
showing up on the heart exams. But when the
researchers focused on particular groups of patients,
there was a connection in the younger group of
For every one-point increase on the 27-point
depression scale, their likelihood of having coronary
artery disease increased by seven per cent.
Over the following three years, depression was
linked with a higher risk of death and major heart
problems. The association was strongest for women
age 55 and under and for men 65 and over, the authors
report in the Journal of the American Heart Asso-
“In that group (of older men) the nature of the
relationship is probably a little different than for
younger women,” Shah said. “The message is more
consistent for younger women.”
Younger women are not at particularly high risk
for coronary artery disease, he said. But those in this
study who were scheduled for a catheterisation had
probably had a positive stress test or chest pain, and
were at higher risk than other women.
“Their stress responses may be more pathologic,”
he said. “For example in day to day life as they’re
coping with their depression they may be more reac-
tive to those depressive symptoms.”
Experiencing trauma or stress may lead to changes
in the brain and in turn to changes in the body, he
“The young woman who is depressed is at risk for
many things, and one of them may be coronary artery
disease,” said Dr Nanette Wenger. “Probably she
should ask her caregiver to check her heart symptoms.”
Wenger is a cardiologist, also at Emory University.
She was not part of the new
Depression is common among
young women, and heart prob-
lems tend to be more damaging
among depressed women, she
“A lot of the concern is why,”
Wenger told Reuters Health.
Genetics could be a factor, and
so could the poor lifestyle habits
that often go along with depres-
sion, like smoking and being
sedentary, she said.
“There’s a very strong heart-
brain connection. We’ve seen it
in older women too,” Wenger
Depression should be consid-
ered along with smoking and
diabetes as a risk factor for heart
disease, Shah said. (Reuters)
Study: Young women, depression
tied to risk of heart problems
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Depression is common among young women, and heart problems
tend to be more damaging among depressed women.
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