Severe depression may silently break a seemingly healthy woman’s heart.
Doctors have long known that depression is common after a heart attack or stroke, and worsens those people’s outcomes. Now Columbia University researchers say depression can lead to heart disease in the first place.
The scientists tracked 63,000 women for 12 years. None had signs of heart disease when the study began, but nearly eight per cent had evidence of serious depression.
The depressed women were more than twice as likely to experience sudden cardiac death. They also had an increased risk of death from other forms of heart disease.
The researchers say the work adds to growing evidence that depression is an independent risk factor for heart disease — on top of the classic risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking.
The next step will be to test whether treating depression lowers the risk.