You may know that having a chronic disease, like type 2 diabetes or heart disease, can lead to emotional problems like depression and anxiety. Caring for your condition, in addition to all of your other responsibilities, can be very stressful. But did you know that it may also be true the other way around? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about 16 million Americans have both depression and heart disease. But there may be good news. A new study from the American College of Cardiology has shown that treating depression can lower your risk for future heart disease.
Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, UT, looked at health data from over 2,300 people in the state. All of them had moderate or severe depression. The subjects either took:
- Statins (cholesterol-lowering medicines)
- Antidepressants and statins together
- No medicines
By the end of the study, the researchers saw that the people on antidepressants alone had half the risk of heart disease and stroke than those who took no medicines. Those who took both statins and antidepressants, or statins alone, did not have a better chance of avoiding heart disease. However, the subjects who had mild or moderate depression did not seem to get the heart benefits of antidepressants that those with severe depression did.
The researchers wrote that this study can’t prove that antidepressants lower heart disease risk. We know from past studies that people with depression are less likely to exercise, eat well, and take their prescribed medicines, and all of these factors play a role in who goes on to get heart disease. However, this study does show that treating depression should be just as important in heart health care as treating obesity, high blood glucose levels, and high cholesterol.