People with depression, poor mental health likely to suffer more heart attacks, find study
Young people who feel down or suffer from depression are more likely to develop serious cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, researchers of a new study said.
The findings of the study, led by researchers from John Hopkins Medicine, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association recently revealed that young adults who self-reported feeling depressed or having poor mental health days had higher rates of heart attacks, strokes and risk factors for heart disease compared with their peers without mental health issues.
The analysis of data from more than a half million people between the ages of 18 and 49, the findings of the study add to a growing body of evidence connecting CVD with depression among young and middle-aged adults and suggest the relationship between the two could begin in early adulthood.
“When you are stressed, anxious or depressed, you may feel overwhelmed, and your heart rate and blood pressure rises,” senior author of the study, Dr Garima Sharma, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said.
“It is also common that feeling down could lead to making poor lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking alcohol, sleeping less and not being physically active, all adverse conditions that negatively impact your heart,” she added.
For their study, the researchers led by Dr Sharma looked at data from 593,616 adults who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a self-reported, nationally representative survey in the United States conducted between 2017 and 2020.
The survey included questions about whether the participants have ever been told they have a depressive disorder, how many days they experienced poor mental health in the past month (0 days, 1–13 days or 14–30 days), whether they had experienced a heart attack, stroke or chest pain, and if they had cardiovascular disease risk factors.
During the survey, one in five adults said that they had depression or frequently felt low, with the study noting that there could have been higher rates during the last year of the study, which was the first year of the COVID19 pandemic.
Data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that during the first year of the pandemic, the number of people who reported depression or anxiety grew by 5.1% (41.5% vs 36.4%) compared to a year earlier, with the highest spike seen among people in the age group 18 to 29 years.
The study further found that those who self-reported several days of feeling down had a stronger link to cardiovascular disease and poor heart health.
Compared with people who reported no poor mental health days in the past 30 days, participants who reported up to 13 poor mental health days had 1.5 times higher odds of cardiovascular diseases, while those with 14 or more days of poor mental health had double the odds, the researchers noted.
“The relationship between depression and heart disease is a two-way street. Depression increases your risk of heart issues, and those with heart disease experience depression,” says Dr Yaa Adoma Kwapong, a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and lead author of the study.
“Our study suggests that we need to prioritise mental health among young adults and perhaps increase screening and monitoring for heart disease in people with mental health conditions and vice versa to improve overall heart health,” she added.