Depression poses a risk for cardiovascular diseases in men that is just as great as that posed by high cholesterol levels and obesity, according to a new study.
According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression. But the mental state is not all that is affected, as depression can also compromise the body, researchers note.
“Meanwhile there is little doubt that depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr. Karl-Heinz Ladwig, a group leader at the Institute of Epidemiology II at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. “The question now is: What is the relationship between depression and other risk factors like tobacco smoke, high cholesterol levels, obesity, or hypertension. How big a role does each factor play?”
Ladwig, also professor of psychosomatic medicine at the Technical University of Munich, as well as a scientist at the German Center for Cardiovascular Disease (DZHK), and his team analyzed data from 3,428 male patients between the ages of 45 and 74 and observed their development over a period of 10 years.
“The work is based on a prospective population-based data set from the MONICA/KORA study that, with a total term of up to 25 years, is one of the few large studies in Europe that allows such an analysis,” said statistician Dr. Jens Baumert of Helmholtz Zentrum, who was also involved in the study.
In their analyses, the scientists compared the impact of depression with the four major risk factors.
“Our investigation shows that the risk of a fatal cardiovascular disease due to depression is almost as great as that due to elevated cholesterol levels or obesity,” Ladwig said.
The results show that only high blood pressure and smoking are associated with a greater risk, he said.
Viewed across the population, depression accounts for roughly 15 percent of cardiovascular deaths.
“That is comparable to the other risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia, obesity, and smoking,” he said, noting these factors cause 8.4 to 21.4 percent of the cardiovascular deaths.
“Our data show that depression has a medium effect size within the range of major, non-congenital risk factors for cardiovascular diseases,” Ladwig said. “In high-risk patients, the diagnostic investigation of comorbid depression should be standard. This could be registered with simple means.”
The study was published in Atherosclerosis.
Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München