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Depression Tied to Heart Disease Risk for Women

Update Date: Jun 19, 2014 09:54 AM EDT

Young and middle-aged women with depression might need to closely monitor their heart health, a new study reported. According to the researchers, depression can double a woman's risk of suffering from a heart attack or dying from heart disease.'

"Women in this age group are more likely to suffer from depression, so this may be one of the 'hidden' risk factors that explains why women die at a disproportionately higher rate than similarly aged men after a heart attack," study lead author, Dr. Amit Shah, an assistant professor of epidemiology with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, said reported by LiveScience.

Dr. Shah added, "And it could be that younger women have neurobiological differences or hormonal differences that make them respond to acute mental stress differently than men or older women."

In this study, Dr. Shah and his team examined data on more than 3,200 adults that had or were suspected of having heart disease from 2003 to 2010. The participants had an average age of around 63. Each participant underwent an arterial X-ray to look for signs of arterial disease. The researchers then followed up on the participants three years later.

The team reported that women aged 55 or younger had a greater risk of being depressed with 27 percent of them being clinically diagnosed with the mental condition. For men aged 65 and older, the depression rate was just nine percent. When the team examined the relationship between depression and heart disease, they found that this link only existed in women aged 55 and younger.

They calculated that for every one-point increase in a woman's depression score, there was a seven percent spike in her heart disease risk. Overall, depressed women had a 2.17 times higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or requiring an invasive procedure for arterial disease. The researchers were unsure as to why depression only affected young and middle-aged women's heart health.

"Although we have more work to better understand what's going on, what this means is that young depressed women should view depression as a motivating factor to live a healthier lifestyle and be more aggressive about preventive care," said Dr. Shah reported by WebMD. "These kinds of relationships are very complicated, and we're still investigating to better understand the reason."

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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