Depression May Be As Bad For Your Heart As Obesity

Estimates from the World Health Organization suggest approximately 350 million people around the world live with depression. It is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses and can be mentally debilitating, but many don’t know it can also have a physical impact.

Depression can affect numerous parts of the body such as sleep, appetite, and muscles. It can also affect the heart. A new study published in the journal Atherosclerosis says depression may even be as hard on the heart as obesity and cholesterol problems.

According to the findings, the risk of fatal heart disease in men with depression is significantly higher than in the normal population.

“There is little doubt that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases,” explains Karl-Heinz Ladwig, group leader at the Institute of Epidemiology II at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. “The question now is: What is the relationship between depression and other risk factors like tobacco smoke, high cholesterol levels, obesity or hypertension — how big a role does each factor play?”

To assess just how severely depression affected the heart, the team of researchers evaluated data collected from 3,428 male patients between 45 and 74 years old. The patients agreed to be observed for over a decade.

The researchers compared the impact of depression on the heart against the four most common known risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity. Of those that died during the course of the study, 269 of the fatalities were caused by heart disease.

According to the data, approximately 15% of those who died had depression. In comparison, 8.4% had high blood pressure and 21.4% were smokers.

“Our data show that depression has a medium effect size within the range of major, non-congenital risk factors for cardiovascular diseases,” said Ladwig in a statement. “In high-risk patients, the diagnostic investigation of co-morbid depression should be standard. This could be registered with simple means.”

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