Feb. 9, 2004 — Symptoms of depression alone rather than actual diagnosed depression may be enough to put older women at risk for heart disease and death.
Previous studies have shown that depression can raise heart risks. But researchers say this is the largest, ethnically diverse study of older women to show depressive symptoms by themselves can raise the risk of heart-related death, especially among women with no history of heart disease.
The study found that older women with symptoms of depression and no history of heart disease were 50% more likely to die from heart disease and 32% more likely to die from any other cause.
The results appear in the Feb. 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Signs of Depression Raise Risks
Researchers looked at the association between depressive symptoms and heart-related events, such as heart attack and stroke, among nearly 94,000 healthy older women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between 1993 and 1998.
Women with clinical depression were excluded from the study, and participants were evaluated for symptoms of depression and heart disease during about four years of follow-up.
The study showed almost 16% of the women reported depressive symptoms, such as feeling depressed, experiencing restless sleep, not enjoying life, feeling sad, having crying spells, and losing pleasure in activities they once found pleasurable.
Women who had symptoms of depression were 12% more likely to have high blood pressure and 60% more likely to have a history of stroke or angina (heart pain).
Researchers also found that women with risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, obesity, low physical activity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, had a 20%-50% higher risk of depression.
Given the mounting evidence that depression is an independent risk factor for heart attack and stroke, researchers say there is growing interest in whether treatment of depression may help lower those risks.
SOURCE: Wassertheil-Smoller, S. Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb 9, 2004; vol 164: pp 289-298.