Women who are 55 and younger are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, require artery-opening procedures, or die from heart disease if they are moderately or severely depressed.
“Women in this age group are also more likely to have depression, so this may be one of the ‘hidden’ risk factors that can help explain why women die at a disproportionately higher rate than men after a heart attack,” says study author Amit Shah, assistant professor of epidemiology and assistant professor of medicine (cardiology) at Emory University.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, investigators assessed symptoms of depression in 3,237 people with known or suspected heart disease (34 percent women, average age 62.5 years) scheduled for coronary angiography, an X-ray that diagnoses disease in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
After nearly three years of follow-up, they found:
- In women 55 and younger, after adjusting for other heart disease risk factors, each 1-point increase in symptoms of depression was associated with a 7 percent increase in the presence of heart disease.
- In men and older women, symptoms of depression didn’t predict the presence of heart disease.
- Women 55 and younger were 2.2 times as likely to suffer a heart attack, die of heart disease, or require an artery-opening procedure during the follow-up period if they had moderate or severe depression.
- Women 55 and younger were 2.5 times as likely to die from any cause during the follow-up period if they had moderate or severe depression.
“All people, and especially younger women, need to take depression very seriously,” Shah says. Depression itself is a reason to take action, but knowing that it is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death should motivate people to seek help.”
Providers should ask more questions and be aware that young women are especially vulnerable to depression, and that it may increase the risk to their heart, Shah says.
“Although the risks and benefits of routine screening for depression are still unclear, our study suggests that young women may benefit from special consideration,” says senior study author Viola Vaccarino, professor of medicine. “Unfortunately, this group has largely been understudied before.”
Source: Emory University