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Depression Ups Heart Failure Risk by 40 Percent

Update Date: Apr 04, 2014 06:33 PM EDT

Depression can cause heart failure, according to a new mental health study.

New research reveals that moderate to severe depression can increase the risk of heart failure by 40 percent.

The latest study of 63,000 Norwegians revealed a dose response relationship between depressive symptoms and the risk of developing heart failure, meaning the more depressed someone is, the more likely they're at risk.

"People who have lost interest in things they used to enjoy, such as reading or watching a television series, may have the early signs of depression. It's a good idea to see your doctor in these early stages for some advice on how to reduce your depression levels," first author Lise Tuset Gustad, an intensive care nurse at Levanger Hospital in Norway, said in a news release.

Researchers assessed the severity of depression using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and used the Norwegian National Cause of Death Registry to track which patients were hospitalized with heart failure or died from heart failure during the 11-year study.

The findings revealed that people with mild depressive symptoms had a 5 percent increased risk of developing heart failure and those with moderate to severe symptoms had a 40 percent increased risk.

"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 said.

"There is effective treatment for depression, particularly if people get help early. The early symptoms of depression include a loss of interest and loss of pleasure in things that have normally been interesting or given pleasure. If you feel like that, speak to your friends and if it lasts for a month see your doctor or nurse. Depression can be treated easily in the early stages and many people don't need medication. Talking to a professional may be all you need," she added.

"Depression triggers stress hormones. If you're stressed you feel your pulse going up and your breath speeding up, which is the result of hormones being released. Those stress hormones also induce inflammation and atherosclerosis, which may accelerate heart diseases. Another mechanism could also be because depressed people find it more difficult to follow advice about how to take medications and improve their lifestyle," Gustad explained.

"Depression is disabling. It blocks people's ability to take their medications as prescribed, stop smoking, improve their diet or exercise more. Hospitals in Norway specialize in either somatic or psychiatric illness and there is little communication between them. Patients at all hospitals should be screened for depression to help them recover from existing illnesses, avoid developing new ones and have a more enjoyable life," she concluded.

The findings were presented at EuroHeartCare 2014 in Stavanger, Norway.

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