Depressed teens and those with bipolar disorder are more likely to suffer from more serious problems even before they reach the mid-life crisis stage.

Young people with mood disorders, such as major depression and bipolar disorders, are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to experts.

In a statement published in the American Health Association's journal Circulation, scientists urge doctors to actively monitor and intervene on the the risk of cardiovascular disease in young people who suffer from mood disorders. The links between depression and heart disorders are well known, but there is little awareness in catching the risks among the youth, so greater action is needed.

"This is really something people should be looking at," said psychiatrist and director of the Centre for Youth Bipolar Disorder at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto Dr. Benjamin Goldstein, who is also the statement's lead author. Goldstein commented how most people only see mood disorders as mental diseases, but he stressed that they have physical manifestations as well. He said adults with mood disorders don't always get the same standards of care for heart disease or stroke.

"We want to make sure that doesn't happen to teenagers," he added.

For the paper, researchers took a look at several studies and assessed the presence of major depression and bipolar disorders and their links to cardiovascular diseases and related deaths in patients' earlier years.

In 2011, for example, the National Health, Lung, and Blood Institute published [pdf] the Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents, identifying four main conditions: chronic inflammatory disease, Kawasaki disease, human immunodeficiency virus and nephrotic syndrome. These four conditions were found to predispose youth to a moderate risk of developing atherosclerosis before they turn 30. In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up in the arteries and can lead to heart attack or stroke.

According to the statement, major depressive mood disorder and bipolar disorder meet all the criteria for risk in all the four conditions; they are more widespread in adolescents than in all of the conditions combined. In the U.S., 10 percent of adolescents suffer from mood disorders.

Adolescents with bipolar disorders repeatedly experience episodes of mania or hypomania, heightened during irritable moods and with other symptoms. Generally, they alternate with episodes of depression, although not always. Depressive mood disorders, on the other hand, come with a sadness or lack of pleasure or interest, and in episodes of depression without mania or hypomania.

"My hope is that the routine treatment of bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder for youth includes an assessment for cardiovascular risk," Goldstein said.

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