Depression Can Hit the Heart

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Depression associated with increased risk for heart failure

April 4, 2014 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Depression is a mental condition. However, the dangers of this condition can spread beyond mental health, and may even involve the heart.

A recent study found that depression was associated with an increased risk for heart failure.

The researchers concluded that the more severe a person's depressive symptoms were, the more at risk they were for heart failure. Therefore, these researchers suggested early treatment.

"Talk to your doctor if you are feeling depressed."

The lead author of this study was Lise Tuset Gustad from the Department of Internal Medicine at Levanger Hospital in Levanger, Norway.

The study included 62,567 adults who were enrolled in the second wave of the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT 2) between 1995 and 1997.

All of the participants in the current study did not have any cases of previous heart failure at the start of the study (baseline).

Data on body mass index (height to weight ratio), physical activity, smoking and alcohol habits, demographics, blood pressure, resting heart rate, total cholesterol, instances of heart attack and chronic somatic diseases (physical symptoms due to mental conditions like anxiety or depression) were recorded at baseline as well.

The participants self-reported symptoms of depression using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-D) — a questionnaire that can be scored up to 21. A score of zero represents no depression symptoms, while a score of 21 represents the highest amount of symptoms.

The researchers conducted follow-up through 2008. Instances of heart attack were recorded throughout follow-up.

The findings revealed 1,499 cases of heart failure over an average follow-up period of 11 years. Cases were identified through hospital records or the National Cause of Death Registry.

The participants with mild depression symptoms (a score on the HADS-D of 8 to 10) had a 5 percent increased risk for heart failure compared to the participants who scored between 0 and 8 on the HADS-D.

Moderate to severe depression symptoms (a score on the HADS-D of 11 or more) were associated with a 40 percent increased risk for heart failure compared to those with a score between 0 and 8.

The researchers determined that the participants with a history of heart attack contributed to only 6 percent of this excess risk.

Gustad and team concluded, "Depressive symptoms increase the chance of developing heart failure and the more severe the symptoms are, the greater the risk. Depressed people have less healthy lifestyles, so our analysis adjusted for factors such as obesity and smoking that could cause both depression and heart failure. This means we can be confident that these factors did not cause the association."

Gustad also suggested that people who have depressive symptoms should seek out help as early as possible in order to get the best treatment possible.

"Early symptoms of depression include a loss of interest and loss of pleasure in thing that have normally been interesting or giving pleasure."

"This study is among many that document how depression and/or anxiety increase the risk of heart attack or heart failure. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there’s now a 'vast scientific literature' detailing how negative emotions harm the heart and physical health," Bradley Nelson, DC, international lecturer in bio-energetic medicine and energy psychology, told dailyRx News. "As a holistic physician, I have studied these connections for 25 years."

Dr. Nelson went on to explain this connection.

"We have all, at one time or another, experienced deep emotional hurt we call 'heartache' as a result of grief, hurt or loss," Dr. Nelson said.

"These feelings of heartbreak can be so uncomfortable, so foreign and so difficult to deal with that they often result in the formation of an energetic 'wall' that surrounds the heart in an effort to protect it from these profoundly negative emotions. If left unresolved, these negative emotions can become trapped in the body and cause anxiety, depression, phobias, panic attacks and other emotional problems that contribute to heart disease," he said.

"In working with people all over North America and training healing practitioners worldwide, I have come to the conclusion that 93 percent of people suffer from this disabling problem we call Heart-Walls™. They are a major cause of depression, failed relationships and loneliness," Dr. Nelson explained.

"But there’s hope: We have also found that profound and lasting changes occur in people's lives when they are able to dismantle these walls around their hearts. We have seen cases of severe depression eliminated once and for all. We have seen marriages saved, abuse stopped and lives turned around. I believe that the most important thing you can do to improve your health, your love life and your longevity is to release trapped emotions and get rid of the walls around your heart," he said. 

This study was presented on April 4 at EuroHeartCare 2014 — the official annual meeting of the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions of the European Society of Cardiology.

Findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.