New connections between the heart and depression

heart health

Depression can feel bad all over, but until now, researchers had no idea how deep the pain and damage from depression was. Recent data suggests that people who suffer from depressive states are twice as likely to have a heart attack.

A new study aimed at understanding the relationship between heart disease and depression has been published in Psychophysiology by a team from Concordia University. They found that depressed individuals have a slower recovery time after exercise compared to the non-depressed. This suggests that the person suffering from depression has a dysfunctional biological stress system contributing to poor health. The research suggests testing for cardiovascular disease among people diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

“There have been two competing theories as to why depression is linked to cardiovascular disease,” says first author Jennifer Gordon, PhD candidate at McGill University. “Depressed people may have poorer health behaviors, which may in turn lead to heart problems. The other possibility is physiological: a problem with the stress system known as the fight or flight response. Our study was the first to examine the role of a dysfunctional fight or flight response in depression in a large population.”

They looked at 886 participants. Five percent had major depressive disorder. All were tested before and after for exercise for heart rate and blood pressure. Recovery rates were compared.

“We found that it took longer for the heart rate of depressed individuals to return to normal,” says senior author Simon Bacon, professor in the Concordia University Department of Exercise Science and a researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute. “Heart rate recovery from exercise is one way to measure the fight or flight stress response. . . We believe that this dysfunction, can contribute to their increased risk for heart disease.” Mental health professionals should not only take care of the major depression, but also look at heart health in order to treat the whole patient.

Source: ScienceDaily, Psychophysiology


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