Treating Depression Reduces Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds

One more reason to get help.

Clinical depression isn't just an occasional feeling of sadness; it's an all-consuming emotional and physical condition that affects diet, sleep, and brings about feelings of hopelessness and constant worry. All of these factors promote high blood pressure and stress, increasing the risk of heart disease. Fortunately, treating these symptoms can significantly decrease that risk, according to a new study.

The study, which was presented at the 2016 American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions, could have big implications for the over 15 million American adults who have experienced depression. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, according to the CDC. This means treating depression could save lives.

"The key conclusion of our study is: If depression isn't treated, the risk of cardiovascular complications increases significantly," researcher Heidi May stated in a press release.

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Using a sample of 7,550 patients with depression at Salt Lake City's Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, the researchers found that those who'd gotten help for their depression had similar heart health as people without depression. Patients with untreated depression, on the other hand, had a significantly higher rate of heart complications. 

Symptoms of depression are generally treated with exercise, therapy, and medication. What hasn't been made clear, however, is which  treatments are most effective at reducing the strain on the heart. 

"What we've done thus far is simply observe data that has previously been collected," May continued. "In order to dig deeper, we need do a full clinical trial to fully evaluate what we've observed."

Untreated depression also increases the risk of suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, and can lead to physical changes in brain regions that process emotions and decision-making.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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