A new research found that depressive symptoms in women aged 55 and younger is associated with higher risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and adverse cardiovascular effects (chronic CVD or cardiovascular diseases) compared to men of the same age and older women. As the study points out, depression is linked to CAD and CVD risks in young women; the lead study author opines that this may be one of the risk factors that can explain why women are dying at a higher rate than men following a heart attack. The American Heart Association issued a scientific statement in 2008 which recommended that depression be formally considered as a risk factor for increased heart disease risk just as diabetes or hypertension. The new finding literally re-defines this recommendation by considering depression as a risk factor in young women.
The researchers investigated depression symptoms in 3,237 people with suspected or known heart disease while 34 percent of them were women of average age 62.5 years. These people were scheduled for coronary angiography to diagnose disease in the coronary arteries (the arteries which supply blood to the heart) and three years of follow-up. Here are the major findings of this study.
- After adjusting for other heart disease risk factors, every one point increase in depression symptoms was associated with a 7 percent increase in the presence of heart disease in women aged 55 and younger.
- Women aged 55 and younger who had moderate or severe depression were 2.17 times more likely to suffer a heart attack, die of heart disease or require an artery-opening procedure during the follow-up period than other groups.
- Women aged 55 and younger who had moderate or severe depression were 2.45 times more likely to die from any cause during the follow-up period.
- In older women and men, the symptoms of depression did not predict the presence of heart disease.
In the opinion of the leading researcher, younger women should take depression very seriously. He said that awareness of the association between depression and an increased risk of heart disease and death should encourage people to seek help. In addition to this, physicians should be aware that younger women are more vulnerable to depression and this may increase their risk of heart diseases. Physicians should ask more questions to them during the visit. Even though the risk and benefits of routine depression screening are not yet clear, the study points out that special consideration may benefit young women.
Primary care physicians should also take care to accurately transcribe their consultation reports so that the specialists to whom they refer their patients can get more information and develop an appropriate treatment plan. This is beneficial both from the point of view of efficient patient care and physician reimbursement.