Postmenopausal Depression May Increase Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I’ve spoken to many women who have been diagnosed with depression and placed on anti-depressant medications in mid-life and later. If you also are in this situation, a new study suggest that you may be at higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


    A research team from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center studied whether symptoms of depression and anti-depressant use were associated with body mass index, waist circumference as well as biomarkers for impaired glucose function and inflammation.  These measures have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.

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    The researchers used data collected from postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, a longitudinal study. These women were recruited for the study from 1993 until 1998. Data was collected at regular periods through 2005.


    The researchers found that among 1,953 women, elevated depressive symptoms were significantly associated with higher insulin levels as well as measures of insulin resistance. They also found that throughout the seven years of study data from 71,809 study participants, participants who had elevated depressive symptoms or were taking antidepressants had higher average body mass index and waist circumference than women who didn’t use antidepressants or who did not have depressive symptoms.  The associations were actually stronger for waist circumference. The researchers’ analysis of 2,242 participants found that both high levels of depressive symptoms when combined with antidepressant use were associated with higher C-reactive protein levels (which indicate inflammation in the body).


    “It may be prudent to monitor post-menopausal women who have elevated depression symptoms or are taking antidepressant medication to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Yunsheng Ma, associate professor of medicine, who with University of Massachusetts Medical School colleagues analyzed data from the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).


    A University of Massachusetts Medical School press release noted that there have been few studies that have examined the association of body mass index, waist circumference and biomarkers of impaired glucose function and inflammation with depression, the use of anti-depressant drugs or both.


    “Given that diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be effectively prevented or delayed in high-risk individuals with lifestyle modifications or pharmacological interventions, our findings indicate the prudence of monitoring BMI, waist circumference, along with established biomarkers for diabetes and cardiovascular risk including serum glucose, insulin resistance, and CRP among women with elevated depression symptoms, or who are taking antidepressant medication, to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” stated Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Brown University, a Women’s Health Initiative investigator and study coauthor. “Further intervention trial is needed to confirm our findings and identify the specific patterns of change associated with diabetic and cardiovascular disease risk markers and individual antidepressants and depression.”


  • So if you’re struggling with depression or on anti-depressants, how can you keep a handle on the issues related to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease? It actually can come down to some simple steps that you should be able to take:

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    • Eat healthy foods. The Mayo Clinic recommends opting for foods that are low in fat and calories. Primarily choose fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
    • Be physically active. The Mayo Clinic recommends trying to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. Possibilities include taking a brisk walk, riding a bike or swimming laps. If your schedule is tight, try to work in shorter 10-minute sessions in several times during the day.
    • Lose extra pounds. By losing 5-10 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes, if you’re overweight. Aim to keep your weight in a healthy range by making permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. “Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem,” the Mayo Clinic suggested.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Castano, E. (2013). New study: depression in postmenopausal women may increase diabetes, cardiovascular disease risk. University of Massachusetts Medical School.


    Ma, Y., et al. (2013). Relations of depressive symptoms and antidepressant use to body mass index and selected biomarkers for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


    Mayo Clinic. (2013). Type 2 diabetes.

Published On: June 24, 2013