Depression does not just prevent people from appreciating and enjoying the things around them. It also appears that those who suffer from the condition are more vulnerable to potentially fatal health problems.
In a new study, Norwegian researchers followed nearly 63,000 individuals who have gone through mental and physical assessments. The researchers gathered information about the subjects including their smoking habits, body mass index, physical activity and blood pressure. They also assessed and ranked the depression level of the participants using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
Within 11 years, nearly 1,500 of the subjects had heart failure. The researchers observed that those who exhibited mild symptoms of depression were five percent more at risk of developing heart failure than those who showed no symptoms of depression at all. The risk goes up in people who had moderate to severe symptoms of depression as they were 40 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who did not show symptoms of depression.
The researchers, however, said that while their study finds a link between depression and heart failure, it does not establish a cause and effect relationship. Nonetheless, they pointed out that depression trigger changes in the body that can increase risks of heart disease. Depressed people also tend to have difficulty following advice regarding their lifestyle and medications which could likely explain the link between depression and heart failure.
"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, "explained study researcher Lise Tuset Gustad, an intensive care nurse at Levanger Hospital in Norway. "Another mechanism could also be because depressed people find it more difficult to follow advice about how to take medications and improve their lifestyle."
Symptoms of depression include persistent feelings of sadness, pessimism and worthlessness as well as irritability, loss of interest that were once regarded as enjoyable, fatigue and loss of appetite or overeating.
Gustad said that there's an effective treatment for depression especially if help is sought early. She urged those who exhibit symptoms of depression to talk to their friends and to see their doctors if the symptoms have already lasted for a month.
The study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Stavanger, Norway Friday.